** For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.** 1 John 5:3
In our post, Perfect Mercy, we talked about the Lord’s command to be merciful. In the Book of 1 John, we are also commanded to love one another. To love the brethren. Both commands are pretty hard to obey, wouldn’t you agree?
In part, loving Christians and being merciful are challenging to us because they both require something greater than ourselves. It is not in our nature to love those around us. It is more our nature to isolate ourselves, live for ourselves and point the finger at other’s shortcomings.
Church attendance is not a commandment for you and I, as far as I know. Yes, the earliest followers met together on the first day of the week. Yes, they were encouraged to spend time together so they could study the Word of God together and learn from each other. Yes, these same Christians shared all that they had so no one was richer or poorer than the others. But church attendance wasn’t and is not a commandment. ( We are warned to not forsake or completely abandon gathering together but we are not commanded to show up for church every time it is open.) It’s a choice, a life choice.
But it is, in my opinion, the easiest thing to do that tells others that we believe in God. It is something completely attainable to almost anyone to show up on a Sunday morning or a mid-week meeting. But sometimes, I think, we use the easiest task as an excuse to not work at the tougher ones.
It is just easier to be a part of a congregation that we like and can feel comfortable with and can make friends than it is to forgive those who harm us or lie to us. It is easier to spend 1 1/2 hours being good at church than it is to be good the rest of the week. It fits easily into the limits of our nature.
The tougher tasks of mercy and love force us to draw from a source greater than our own self. We are all easily offended, have our own opinions on how things should be done, and have our own preferences and priorities. We all get mad at the person who questions our motives, or who slights us at a dinner party. We, too often, live for our own gratification and anyone who denies us that becomes someone to avoid.
Mercy and love, however, commandments of the God we choose to serve, require a better way. And the Lord himself, we all know, is the source and guide for this better way.
Mercy and love demand that we make more of an effort. They tell us to not run away at the first sign of trouble. They push us to respond with kindness and patience. They are the little voice in our heart that tells us to not respond to someone based on what they have provoked in our own nature.
So, how do we tap into this Source of supernatural mercy and love so that we can be better than ourselves?
- Read our Bible with a mind to learn how to do something and not just for sterile information.
- Pray for sensitivity to the Lord’s voice telling us to speak kindly, be patient, have compassion, be merciful, etc.
- Take time to think of past merciless and loveless moments and think about how we could have done something different, how we could have chosen the better way.
- Practice mercy and love with our own spouse and children. Our faith speaks first and loudest at home.
- Forgive ourselves for past mistakes. God already did. Follow His example of mercy towards us.
- Recognize a merciful spirit in others. Look for Mercy Mentors.
Mercy and love, like so much of our Christianity, is perfected over time. We need to be patient with ourselves and with others. God is still working in all of us. We need to keep moving forward and growing and avoid being so hard on ourselves or on others along the way.
If we use these 6 steps again and again, we will see mercy and love reflected in us more often than anger, stress and frustration. It is my belief that Jesus was who He was, in part, because He consciously chose to be like the Father in every situation. Now, it is our turn to be merciful and loving, on purpose, in Jesus’ name.