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The Miracle of Mercy
By Terry Rush
Howard BooksCopyright © 1999 Terry Rush
All right reserved.
Mary Karr, in her memoir The
Liar's Club,tells of a Texas uncle who, after a fight
with his wife, remained married to her yet did not speak to her
for forty years. He thought she spent too much money on sugar. He
sawed their house down the middle and moved his half several
yards away. He gave new meaning to the term halfway house.
Upon telling this story, Philip Yancey points
Forgiveness offers a way out. It does not
settle all questions . . . but it does allow a relationship to
start over, to begin anew. In that way, said Solzhenitsyn, we
differ from all animals. Not our capacity to think, but our
capacity to repent and to forgive makes us different. Only humans
can perform that most unnatural act, which transcends the
relentless law of nature.
Now note his counsel: "If we do not
transcend nature, we remain bound to the people we cannot
forgive, held in their vise grip." The man sawed the
house in half ! Over money spent on sugar! This shows the
desperate efforts of some to retaliate, to do harm. But in
reality, the greatest harm was to himself. We must change this
dominant spiritual gene found in each of us.
A World without Mercy
America's condition isnot declining
simply because violence, greed, and immorality moved in but
because forgiveness, grace, and mercy moved out. Her churches are
not dwindling because they lack the creative juices to
effectively market their cause. It's because we have been
just as indignant as the world we are trying to save. We have
failed the call of Jesus to love our enemies as we do our
friends. Stinging words and snobbish attitudes have driven the
masses from the house of God to live on the streets of a cold and
Harsh and stubborn responses have deterred
many a softening heart from giving in and making up. Pride
refuses to say the simplest things like, "I'm
sorry" or "Please, would you forgive me?" or
"I was wrong." Independence has convinced us, at times,
that we need no one. We do think we are better off as islands.
Indeed, many have made concerted efforts to make a difference for
good. Money has been contributed. Foundations have been forged.
Humanitarianism is abundant and deserves our applause and
participation. Yet, tension increases, privacy fences abound, and
individualism holds potential apologies and reunions at bay.
The Choice to Be Merciful
Yet, there is hope. For all the isolation
of the information age, it does offer vast choices. Everywhere,
from automobiles to cereals to deodorants, choice is abundant.
It's up to me to decide how I will respond to the wars
raging within and without me. I choose. And oftentimes, choice is
based on what I believe about the circumstances in my
life. William Backus and Marie Chapian wrote in Telling Yourself the Truth,
Yourself the Truth,"In emotional and mental health,
what you believe is all important. . . . Other people,
circumstances, events and material things are not what make you
happy. What you believe about these things is what makes
you happy or unhappy." Those three sentences changed
my life. Whether or not I live a life of forgiveness, compassion,
and mercy is up to me and no one else. I decide.
And some people are choosing the road less
traveled. A global warming is taking place in the hearts of many.
Reports of mended relationships, unearthly forgiveness, and
surprising compassion are met with rave reviews. Talk shows and
news reports gladly tell of victims who walk a higher road by
refusing to hold on to bitterness and anger toward personal
offenders. Many believers are tired of being mean. Preachers are
tired of being loud and abrasive. The blessings that result are
Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon were on
to something when they wrote, "Our everyday experience of
life in the congregation is training in the arts of forgiveness;
it is everyday, practical confirmation of the truthfulness of the
Christian vision.". Great hope is found in the determination
to "train in the art of forgiveness."
Training does not come from reading good
books, however. It comes by being offended. This calls us to a
kingdom style that not only works but also is work.
It's one thing to talk the talk in Sunday school with
lifeless flannel graph. It's another to walk the talk when a
drunk runs over your son. The former requires nothing more than
religious chatter. The latter exists only in a newly created
person and originates in undaunted courage to love one so
irresponsible. It calls for strength of characterother
worldly strength. It calls for a characteristic that few dare to
grapple with. It calls for the marvel of mercy.
The Marvel of Mercy
Mercy is what God is about. And it's
what we are to be about. The marvel of mercy lived out in
everyday lives is every bit as powerful as a nuclear warhead.
Even more so. But be warned. Mercy's calling and demands may
at times seem beyond reason. Don't sweat it. So is a nuclear
warhead. But along with mercy's high calling, God issues us
the unequaled power required to live it out.
William Willimon tells a marvelous story about
a college student ministering in the inner city of Philadelphia
for a summer. Following is a paraphrase of that story:
The greenhorn hesitantly made his way off of the bus and onto the
sidewalk of one of the worst looking housing projects in town. As
he entered the huge, dark tenement he was first greeted by a
horrible odor. Windows were out. No lights in the hall. He heard
a baby crying and skeptically knocked on the door.
A woman holding a naked baby opened the door slightly.
Disgruntled, she wanted to know what he wanted. "I'm
here to tell you about Jesus." She cursed him all the way
down the hall, down the steps, and out to the sidewalk.
The boy sat on the curb and cried.
Upon noticing a store on the corner, he
recalled the baby had no diapers and that the woman was smoking.
He bought a box of disposable diapers and a pack of cigarettes.
With fierce trepidation the student made another trek up that
memorable flight of stairs. Upon hearing the knock, the
ill-tempered woman opened the door. He slid the box and the
cigarettes across the threshold. She said, "Come in,"
and then sternly, "Sit down."
He fitted a diaper on the baby and, although he didn't
smoke, did have a cigarette with her when she offered one.
Eventually she asked what a nice boy like him was doing in a
place like that. He told her everything he knew about Jesus . . .
in about five minutes.
He later reported to his colleagues, "I not only got to tell
'em about Jesus, I met Jesus. I went out to save somebody,
and I ended up getting saved. I became a disciple.
Along with this naive college student, we can
share in the marvel of mercybut only if we are willing to
be involved in a most radical process. The cadence of mercy does
not move to the rhythm of mediocrity. It can't, for it
assumes we are in trouble. Mercy is the cure for injury. It does
what we can't, and it's tough too. Mercy is not about
the trivial. It's about the unlikely and the impossible.
Mercy will not hedge on the truth. It will not hear of playing
politics. Its public relations firm consists only of an innocent
Nazarene, who was willing to take on the guilt of the guilty by
being suspended from a cross in enormous humiliation. That's
the marvel of mercy.
Answering the call of mercy is more than
noble; it's appealing. It's enticing to all who are
weary of giving it their best shot only to end up with broken
hearts and shattered dreams. We are fatigued from trying to
repair one-sided relationships and lopsided goals. The worries,
the discouragements, the anxieties . . . where can we go?
Hope for the Weary
If you find yourself embroiled in a
domestic warthe sort that is every bit as intense as the
Mideast conflictyou will like this book. If you are tired
of living out bitterness, animosity, avoidance, hostility, and
even cruel hatred, you hold in your hand artillery for fresh
hope. If you're worn down over family or career conflict,
The goal of this book is to offer empty souls
a brave and daring hope. If your mind continually rehearses
wounds and injuries, get ready. You are about to become aware of
one of the most outrageous, most scandalous, most improbable,
impossible facets of Godmercy.
Brennan Manning declares the power of the
message of God to crack open our world.
When the Gospel is preached with purity and
power, it should force us to reassess the entire direction of our
lives. The Word breaks our train of thought, cracks open our capsuled doctrine, shatters our life of comfortable piety and
well-fed virtue. The flashing spirit of Jesus breaks new paths
everywhere. The Gospel is no Pollyanna tale for the neutral but a
cutting knife, rolling thunder, convulsive earthquake in the
world of the human spirit.
May the knife be sharpened, may the thunder
clap, may the earthquake rumble! May the marvel of mercy break
our train of thought . . . that a miracle might capture our
hearts once again.
Excerpted from The Miracle of Mercy by Terry Rush Copyright © 1999 by Terry Rush. Excerpted by permission.
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