September 1, 2020: NCM Day 3 - Mercy
Updated: Sep 9
* From Seven Days of Compassion: A Devotion Nazarene Compassion Ministries.
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” LUKE 10:25-37 (NRSV)
The lawyer who asked, “What do I have to do to get eternal life?” knew the right answer: “Love God with everything, and love your neighbor as yourself.” If it had been a written exam, he would have earned a perfect score. But he wanted to know how much wiggle room he had in the actual living-it-out part. He was a lawyer who knew how to find loopholes, so he pushed the conversation further, asking Jesus to define “neighbor.”
Instead of a legal definition, Jesus gave him a story. In it, the understanding of neighbor is tied to the concept of mercy. God’s merciful character finds its expression in the ways we love our neighbor. Since God’s mercy is offered to us each and every day, as Lamentations 3 reminds us, we are called to offer mercy to others each day. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite intentionally cross over the road to avoid helping the injured man. Showing mercy required the Samaritan to come close to the injured man—to see him. In the moment he truly saw the other man, he was moved to a compassionate response.
In Beyond Words, author Frederick Buechner writes, “When Jesus comes along saying that the greatest command of all is to love God and to love our neighbor, he too is asking us to pay attention. If we are to love God, we must first stop, look, and listen for him in what is happening around us and inside us. If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces, but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in.”
Like the priest and the Levite, we miss out on God’s call to show mercy if we take steps to isolate ourselves from the suffering of others. And like them, we miss out on the opportunity to love our neighbor when we are too preoccupied to pay attention or when we refuse to come close enough and stay long enough to truly see.
Merciful God, Give us eyes to see Your face in the face of those who suffer. Grant us the strength to embrace the pain and resist sheltering ourselves from uncomfortable situations. May we follow in the steps of the Good Samaritan who truly loved his neighbor. Amen.
• Practice affirming people’s dignity by making eye contact with people who are experiencing homeless, asking for money, or otherwise in need.
• Volunteer your time at a hospital, health clinic, or senior care facility. A warm smile and a listening ear can play a part in the healing process.
• Pray for children around the world who are affected by HIV and AIDS, that God would provide ways for them to gain opportunities for a healthy future. Pray for comfort for parents who needlessly lose children to diseases like malaria, and pray that God would use churches to provide prevention strategies such as mosquito nets.
• Develop a congregational plan for how to respond to the needs that come through your doors. Partner with other local churches to offer multiple ministries in your community.
• As a church, consider supporting a local refugee family by gathering needed items for their new home and supporting their job search, education, and settlement into your town.
• Pray for children who are displaced and traumatized because of violence and persecution. Pray for Nazarene schools in the Middle East that are providing education and support to children living as refugees.