Thursday, March 17, 2016

Showing Mercy

Mercy is a challenge to receive and a challenge to give.

As humans, we are not built for the likes of mercy. We do not seem to be able to comprehend a gift with no strings attached, with no merit, given to people who decidedly do not deserve it
But that’s mercy for you.

Check out this clip of two basketball teams in Texas. One team is made up of boys from a private school. We can assume these young men work hard and their school to keep their grades up, to keep their record clean, to practice their basketball skills. When their schoolmates, teachers, and parents cheer for them, it is easy to assume they deserve it.

But, what about the opposing team? This team is made up- of boys who are in a detention center because they have been convicted of a felony. They do not deserve praise. Our justice system has determined that they deserve punishment.

Then mercy steps in where we think it doesn’t belong. Mercy in the form of a couple of young men bothered by the fact that the detention center team has no one to cheer for them. The end result is priceless as the crowd enthusiastically cheers for the team that deserves only punishment.

The young men in the detention center know why they are there and why they deserve punishment. It seems, from their comments, that perhaps they have experienced precious little mercy in their young lives.

Punishment is a powerful tool used to shape behavior. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. As I explain to college students preparing for teaching, some children are more motivated by their anger, their fear, or their need to control than they are by a punishment or a reward. Punishment alone is not likely to be effective in making a change in behavior.

Everyone needs mercy. Everyone needs to feel loved and forgiven. We receive mercy on a daily basis from a Heavenly Father who is perfect and has the right to hold us accountable for our imperfection.

May He bless us not only with His perfect mercy, but with the wisdom to share that mercy with others – especially the ones who need it most.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever. Psalm 23

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