Give me a word, Lord: OH, MERCY!

Luke 10:30-37 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’  “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Oh mercy me! I’ve used that phrase a time or two in my day. It’s an old southern phrase meaning “God have mercy on me.” I sure need mercy, and I bet you do too. But what exactly is mercy? The King James Version dictionary defines mercy as “That benevolence, mildness or tenderness of heart which disposes a person to overlook injuries, or to treat an offender better than he deserves; the disposition that tempers justice, and induces an injured person to forgive trespasses and injuries, and to forbear punishment, or inflict less than law or justice will warrant. It implies benevolence, tenderness, mildness, pity or compassion, and clemency, but exercised only towards offenders.” So how do we get mercy? Matthew 5:7 tells us “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” In order to receive mercy, we must be merciful. We have to show mercy to others.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is just one of many great biblical examples of mercy, but it is probably one of stories that we are most familiar with. An expert in the law asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus knew that he was a man of the law, and as He did so often, He answered the question with a question. He asked the man how he interpreted the law. The man of law answered, “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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus told him that he answered well, and to go and do this. But then the man of law asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus then proceeded to share the parable of the Good Samaritan.

In biblical times, Jews despised Samaritans, and Samaritans in turn despised the Jews. They would walk a mile out of the way to keep from crossing paths, and they definitely wouldn’t show compassion on one another. Jesus knew this, and He paired up a Jew and a Samaritan in this parable to give it some weight. The story begins with a Jewish man who had been beaten by robbers and left for dead on the side of the road. A priest came walking down the same road, and he surely noticed this injured man, but rather than going to assist him, he walked past him on the other side of the road. Then a Levite came upon the man, and he too passed by on the other side of the road. Here we have two religious men who observed this injured man, and yet they did not show an ounce of godly compassion on this poor guy. And then the plot thickens. A Samaritan who was traveling through came upon this injured man, and he showed great compassion on him. He didn’t just stop by and say, “Hey are you okay? Do you need anything?” and kept on riding on his donkey. He got off of his donkey, bandaged the man’s wounds, poured on his own oil and wine, put the man on his donkey, and took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he paid the innkeeper, and left money to continue to care for the man, and he even told the innkeeper that if it cost more than he left, he would return to pay the difference. Wow! That is mercy, my friends!

The Samaritan didn’t know this man, and culture told him that he should hate this man, but his heart told him not to. He had a heart full of compassion. He showed true mercy. He stopped to check on the man. He gave of his time to a stranger, and a stranger of an ethnicity that he was brought up to despise. Not only, did he stop and check on this man, he tenderly cared for him. He bandaged his wounds. He poured his on oil and wine on him. He gave up riding on his donkey so that the injured many could ride, and he even took him to a local motel to help him recover. He paid the bill too, y’all! You know, we could learn a thing or too from this Samaritan man.

Two religious leaders passed by and avoided the situation, and a traveling stranger stopped and showed mercy. That injured man had not done anything to earn the mercy that was offered to him by this good Samaritan, but the Samaritan gave mercy to him regardless. He compassionately cared for the man, and at what cost? It cost him his time, his wine, his oil, his donkey, and even his money. He gave all of this to someone whom he would probably never see again, and he would not receive anything in return. This is truly a great example of mercy and compassion, but there is an even greater example and it isn’t just a parable. Jesus suffered and died on the cross so that each and every one of us would be given the opportunity to receive the gift of ever lasting life. He took on the sins of the world so that you and I could have an eternal relationship with God. We didn’t do anything to earn that mercy. We will never be able to repay that gift. Jesus has been so merciful to each of us, and we were created in the image of God to be a reflection of Him. We too are created to show mercy to others.

As Christians, we need to get past the societal influences that tell us who to like and who to hate and what color skin is good and what color is bad. We were all created in the image of God. We have to start loving our neighbors. Who are our neighbors? Everyone we come in contact with every single day. Our pastor always says a way you can gauge your love for God is how you love others. If we could just get over ourselves, and really truly reflect the love of Christ each and every day, all day long, what a different place this world would be. We must start showing the love of Christ, and we have to be merciful. We didn’t deserve the mercy that Christ has shown us. Our neighbors may not deserve mercy from us either, but if we truly have the Holy Spirit residing within us, we can’t help but show mercy.

Don’t step over that wounded neighbor or friend. Don’t cross their paths on the opposite side of the road. Don’t ignore the hurting. Don’t dishonor someone because of their race, educational background, the social status, or even their career. Jesus says we have to love our neighbors. That means all of them…even the ones that are hard to like. Show them lots of love!

OH MERCY ME! Lord, we really need Your help here!

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