Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Agents of Mercy

"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."
Romans 12: 1-2

Like most believers across the nation, we participated in virtual church on Sunday.  This allowed us to listen to a message from a church we would like to visit here in Indianapolis, as well as listen to the message from what we still consider as our home church, Stonepoint.  Brandon's message for Stonepoint was from Romans on The Art of Being Different in an Age of Indifference.  Particularly important now.

What struck me was one of the first questions that Brandon posed.  Paul starts Romans 12 with an appeal that has resulted from his discussion in the prior eleven chapters.  An appeal by the mercies of God, in which he is appealing to us to be agents of the mercies of God.  Which raises the question, are we agents of the mercies of God?

Are we acting as agents of the mercies of God?

Are we demonstrating his mercy?  His long-suffering patience?  His generosity?  His kindness?  His love?

Realizing of course, all of this was shown to those who were enemies of God.  Who were far from Him.  Who despised Him.  Who spat on Him and injured Him. "Love your enemies," indeed.

I guess I worry that, all too often, we desire to be agents of His judgment or His wrath, as opposed to mercy.  We want to be the one convicting or condemning, which was never our job.  Those fall to the Spirit, and the Father, respectively.  Our's was always love, under which mercy should fall naturally.

And in times like this, our mercy should be flowing abundantly.

We, the church, should be the ones caring for those that are scared, that are hurting, that are suffering during this time.  Doing our part to prevent the spread of this disease, following the guidelines and regulations as they come, but still being the hands and feet of Jesus.  

Instead of hoarding, we as Christians should be the first giving our supplies away.  We should be the first to share non-perishable food items, to share cleaning supplies, to share paper goods.  To share toilet paper.

One suggestion the church in Brownsburg had was creating an emergency supply kit in a shoebox.  Not for yourself, but for your neighbors.  To share supplies and an encouraging word.  A shoebox with a roll of toilet paper, with a card letting them know you are thinking of them and want to help in anyway you can, and any other supplies you can fit.  To work in social distancing times, these could be just left on a porch or by the door.  

For churches with kitchens, is there a way you can help get meals to those who need them?  Could you set up a curbside pickup for meals to go, particularly for the most at-risk among us?

If not food, is there monetary assistance we could be providing?  Are there expenses that we could meet for those that have been furloughed or lost their job in this time?  

At a most basic level, can we be merciful with our words?  Can we be careful not to minimize or belittle the anxiety that people are feeling about this disease?  "It's just the flu" isn't really factually accurate or helpful right now.  Likewise, quoting statistics on mortality to someone who has a family member suffering or infected, or even to someone who is worried about their immuno-compromised friend or family might not be the most merciful thing to do.  We can discuss and validate their concerns, with the best thing we can do often being just listening and being there.

So, how are we doing?

What kind of agent are you?  I know I'm having to check myself regularly.  Am I being an agent of the mercies of God?  Am I trying to be an agent of some other aspect of Him, where I should not be?  or am I not an agent at all, rather only serving myself?

Thankfully, God's mercy is vast and displayed to us in spite of our shortcomings.

"The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.  He does not deal with us according to our sinds, nor repay us according to our iniquities.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us."
Psalm 103: 8-12

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