March 2nd, 2021 by Sheryl Shaw
A blog on mercy seemed such an easy task until today’s sermon.
It has been a hard week. Actually, ten days. That was when I received a message that a co-worker, a brother, a friend, had been picked up and taken in for questioning.
This injustice took place in a country where sharing about the hope of Jesus will get you arrested, and worse.
The means used for questioning are not things I want to write.
Did I mention he is a friend? I can see his face right now, hear his laugh as I remember him telling me the story of how he came to follow Christ.
I marvel at his faith.
He was taken along with other co-workers, followers of Christ risking their lives to share their faith. “Co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus,“ Paul’s words.
These are your co-workers too.
I have been praying. I have asked others to pray in ever widening circles. I can’t help but think about their suffering and I want them released!
Then, in the middle of today’s sermon I hear something that cuts through all the noise in my head, through my selfishness that comes out even in my prayers, and the Holy Spirit reveals something to me.
“You are seeing things merely from a human point of view.”
Those words echo in me.
I am like Peter.
One minute I am absolutely sure of Jesus our Messiah, trusting him, and the next, I am taking over the plans and trying to direct things.
I understand Peter. Who in their right mind would ever let a friend suffer and die without trying to intervene, to redirect them?
Yet Jesus already knew his path and Peter had just set up an obstacle right in the middle of it asking him to take a detour, to choose another way.
Mark says Jesus looked at the disciples first and then rebuked Peter. This moment is about so much more than just Peter.
Christopher connected this moment to Satan tempting Jesus in the desert, in the middle of hunger pangs, to turn stone into bread.
Yet this time, the temptation was coming from Jesus' dear friend Peter.
It all seems so reasonable, so thoughtful, so loving, so Christian. What harm is bread?
Why not choose the path that avoids suffering? It is such an easy choice.
But Jesus shows us how to choose the better way, the path of obedience to the Father. “But so the world might know how thoroughly I love the Father, I am carrying out my Father’s instructions right down to the last detail.” John 14:31.
I was reminded that my friends in prison have already benefited from God’s mercy. In response, they have chosen obedience knowing it could lead to suffering and that it might even cost them their lives.
The hope they are offering is worth all of it, and they are following in the footsteps of Jesus himself.
Some years ago another friend had been arrested in a different country and I just wanted him released so badly that it consumed me.
I had a meeting with a Christian leader from Asia and asked him if we could pray for my friend first. His response was an immediate yes and then he startled me by saying, “Yes, of course, because if he is not killed he will have a chance to witness to his captors.”
What a different way to pray, not just for rescue, but for God’s word to be shared in the most desperate of places with the very people perpetrating such evil.
No one will ever ask harder things from you than Jesus.
In the Gospel reading from Mark we hear Jesus telling his disciples that they will suffer and be treated as criminals for their faith.
He was preparing them.
Then Jesus showed us how to respond in these circumstances by his example, by showing mercy, even as he was killed.
So, we did pray for my friend and his captors and the Gospel did make its way into that terrible prison as he followed in the steps of Jesus and showed mercy to those torturing him.
I am praying that again today, for my friends in jail now. Of course I am praying for their release and their safety, but even more importantly, I am praying that they will get the chance to show mercy to the very people holding them, to these persecutors that don’t deserve it.
Mercy assumes sin and wrong-doing and is a response to it.
I am praying that God’s love makes it into this darkest of places and that the light our friends have brought with them will shine out like the sun.
If my friends who are suffering so much can show mercy to their captors, how little it is to ask me to do the same here?
Who has wounded me or wronged me in such a deep way that it is easier for me to judge them and walk away feeling justified?
Have I forgotten the mercy that God has shown to me over and over, when I have been at my absolute worst?
A quote from the sermon that really hit me,“Judgement comes from a distance but mercy shows up on the scene.”
I am praying for the strength to step back into relationships where I have created such distance and for God’s gift of mercy to flow through me, and just maybe, change me into a more merciful disciple.
Mercy is the only way, for me, for us and for my friends being held right now.
Do you want to hear more from Sheryl? Listen here.
Or read her article on welcoming others here.
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