As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And [Matthew] got up and followed [Jesus]. While he was at table in His house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and His disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to His disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” [Jesus] heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
I am a student in a lifelong education program: the School of Mercy. I am taking Jesus at His word and I’m going and learning the meaning of the words, “I desire mercy [and] not sacrifice.” The School of Mercy is one that I am quite familiar with, but have also flunked out of, re-enrolled, made good grades; flunked out…you get the picture.
Learning mercy is a lifelong journey – a journey of receiving, learning, and giving mercy…the mercy that Jesus continually gives to us. I do not believe we can give mercy to another, especially God’s mercy, unless we have experienced it ourselves, deeply and firsthand.
Let me repeat myself: We cannot give what we have not received or do not have.
Mercy, like Grace, comes to us through the cracks and brokenness, through the sin and sorrow and suffering of our days, as well as through the unexpected joys of our sacred lives.
Mercy, along with Grace and Truth, remind me of the ‘trinity’ of Jesus. He came full of grace and truth, and showered mercy on many, many people. And when I use the word mercy, I am taking liberties and including it to encompass the word ‘compassion’ as well. Even though in English we use them differently, in the Old Testament, the words are closely related in meaning (not necessarily in spelling). The word “Hesed” is a Hebrew word defined as “kindness” or “loving-kindness.” Hesed is also sometimes translated as mercy, compassion and/or love in the Scriptures. But Hesed is closer to loving-kindness or better yet defined, it is closer in translation as Loyal Mercy.
Mercy is (literally) tattooed on my body so I do not forget it – I’ve done a Chinese kanji version of Micah 6:8 on my right forearm. I put it there so I will always remember what I am supposed to do with my life: “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” That is my second favorite “life Scripture” aside from Luke 4:18.
Micah 6:8 sums up the Mission Statement of the School of Mercy. We must do justice, we must love mercy, and we must walk humbly with our God. Notice this Scripture does not merely say do mercy or be merciful…no, we must love mercy. And just as Jesus said, “Be merciful just as your Father is merciful.”
In truth, Jesus is the truest embodiment (em-Body-ment) of Mercy. Jesus is the way to learn mercy…as He enters us through prayer, fellowship, Scripture, the Eucharist, and the poor. And as He enters you and me, we learn mercy from Him, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
And Jesus’ desire is for you and me, and passionately so and Jesus desires mercy. He desires us to learn it, He desires us to receive it and He desires us to give it. I’m pretty pathetic at giving mercy if I am honest. I’m real adept at “asking” and “receiving” it…but without giving it, or letting mercy come upon me and pass right on through me to the world, it is like stagnant water: not much good for anything.
I think we all need to enroll in the School of Mercy – it is a school that accepts all who apply and is in session all year round. We all need more mercy in our lives, as something we receive from Jesus (who gives it in abundance and upon request) and as something we give in His name. So, may the Mercy of Jesus flow into and from us like Living Water.
School’s in session…so don’t be late for class.