Sunday, May 29, 2011

How Mercy Looks {to Me}

Today in Sunday School class, we revisited a sort-of unfinished topic from several weeks ago that had resulted in much discussion. The subject matter was how "mercy" looks, and what our responsibility is, in the life of a believer as it relates both to the Body {our brothers & sisters in Christ} and to the world. Inevitably, the conversation turned to the homeless, the beggars, the "down & outs". Since moving to the South, Aaron & I have seen more of the homeless lifestyle than we have up North. We've had prior exposure for sure, but not to the extent we've seen here.  It seems as though almost on every busy corner with a shopping center, there is someone with a cardboard sign asking for help...and anything helps.

I have become accustomed to giving these individuals food or water, if I have it. There is one man who stands outside of Target, for whom I buy popcorn and sometimes a soda. One time he joked with that me "all he needed now was a good movie"!  I've also mentioned before how one time I even gave an angel a bottle of water.  I by no means feel guilted into giving to these people, nor do I feel as though it's a good deed that I can check off my list for the day. What I feel is compassion...and thankfulness and gratitude.  As I sit at the stop light in my newish car, with my trunk full of groceries and money in my wallet, on my way home to my little white picket fence life and family that loves me, I am overwhelmed with the realization of how abundantly blessed I am.

I have no doubt that many of these individuals have ended up in their current situation because of decisions they've made and paths they've chosen to take. However, I know that I've made bad decisions and that could just as easily be me. But by the grace of God, there go I, right? Many regular, upstanding citizens feel that the homeless have made their bed so now they have to lie in it and don't really deserve to be helped because of their bad choices. But I am forever grateful that God didn't leave me to lie in the bed that I made. I'm so glad that He bestowed much mercy and compassion on me and did not give me exactly what I deserved, because the only one thing that I deserve is punishment for my sin.

I do believe that some homeless beggars are just unwilling to work and don't desire to have a job. They are perfectly content to scrounge by on the generosity of others. However, one thing I always come back to in my mind is that if they did want to work, I can imagine the loss they feel as to where to start. Before Alex was born my career was in Human Resources, so I know and understand what it takes to get hired and keep a job. First come the you need an interview that requires a shower, a nicer outfit, a clean-shaven face, a resume... Not to mention that if you do get the job after an interview, you need consistent, reliable transportation so you can show up every day, you need references, you need a social security card, identification, a home address and phone number. Unless you're working under the table, even if you flip burgers at McDonald's or pick up someone's trash these are all things you need to be gainfully employed. I'm not saying it's impossible, but it wouldn't be easy and I believe every bit of overwhelming.

Scripture commands us to be generous and to put our faith into action, but I don't believe that every single person has, or should even feel, an obligation or responsibility to give to the homeless. I don't even think there's anything wrong with you if you can drive by them and not think twice. However, I am compelled to look them in the eye and share a smile and a bottle of water, an orange, or a bag of popcorn. For me, it all goes back to the fact that without Christ, I am that beggar stinky and dirty from my sin. Hungry, but not having what I need to be filled. But God in His loving-kindness cleansed me white as snow, clothed me in mercy, and filled me with His righteousness. And if I can demonstrate even one iota of that kind of mercy to someone that most would deem as "undeserving", it gives me great joy to do so. Because I am that undeserving.

At the close of class today, a quote by C.S. Lewis was shared and I turned wide-eyed to Aaron and said this is exactly how I feel! And he smiled and said, "I know you do."
"It will not bother me in the hour of death that I have been 'had for a sucker' by any number of imposters; but it would be a torment to know that I had refused even one person in need!" CS Lewis


  1. Wow! That C.S. Lewis quote is quite thought provoking... humbling... Thank you!

  2. AnonymousMay 31, 2011

    You've done it again, my sweet daughter, brought tears to my eyes and conviction to my heart. I am SO VERY thankful that God has given you a heart of compassion! Even as a child it broke your heart to see the "bag lady" on the Staten Island ferry & you wanted to "bring her home" or the blind accoridan player at the grocery store and wanted coins for his cup. How I praise God that you see their need in light of Christ's love! May you continue to minister to all those "angels" and "humans" that God has given you eyes to see!
    Matt. 25:35 "...for I (Christ) was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink"
    I'm "forever grateful" for you and for God's love flowing through you!

    "Forever Grateful
    You did not wait for me to draw near to You
    But You clothed Yourself with frail humanity
    You did not wait for me to cry out to You
    But You let me hear Your Voice calling me
    And I'm Forever Grateful to You
    I'm Forever Grateful for The Cross
    I'm Forever Grateful to You
    That You came to seek and save the lost