Thursday, May 12, 2016

How can we develop a merciful spirit?

The LORD is  good to all, And His mercies are over all His works.  Psalm 145:9

At our rare times of introspection, we do desire to be more merciful and forgiving, but we seem to have unlearned those emotions.  How can we relearn them? How can we be, as the Scripture exhorts us, more tender-hearted, kind, and forgiving?
Perspective - Seeing as God sees can be a giant step toward a merciful, tender-hearted, and forgiving attitude.
Sometimes we are too busy for people to be very important. We are caught up with our goals, our projects. We see ourselves as busy people, always behind, working hard to get things done.  In the hustle of busy lives it is easy to see people as either road blocks or stepping stones. It's often too easy to evaluate them in terms of whether they fit into our plans or not.  It is exceedingly difficult to see people as individually important and valuable to God. It's easier to neatly categorize them by whatever stereotypes are convenient for us. Some are winners, others are losers.  But the truth is that God loves every one of them. Even those we think are losers are important to God. God loves the prisoner, the homosexual, the bag lady, and the bag boy just as much as He loves the medical students, and the theological students, the teachers, and the stock-brokers. All people are special in God's eyes.  We need to pray, "God, let me see them through your eyes."
Sensitivity – Learning how to empathize with others.
If we are to be merciful, forgiving people, we must climb into their situation and learn to feel as they feel.  It is so easy to stand off from someone else and pass judgment concerning their situation - so easy to tell someone else what they need to do, especially when you haven't lived through their situation yourself.  There is something about going through the hard time for yourself, however, that gives you a different perspective.  When you have felt the pain, when you have suffered the loss, when you have endured the crushing blow, it is altogether different.  Now, all of us cannot experience everything life deals out. But we can make an honest attempt to consider what it would be like if we were in that situation.  Consider these situations:
  1. How do you suppose it feels to be handicapped, unable to walk or stand, unable to drive or take care of yourself?
  2. How do you suppose it feels to be unemployed, with bills you cannot pay, and children you cannot feed?
  3. How do you suppose it feels to be a minority, living in a community where you are different?
  4. How does it feel to be an ethnic person, in a society in which you find it difficult to communicate in the native language?
  5. How would it feel to be divorced, struggling through the pain of having the one you love reject you?
  6. How would it feel to be widowed, or to lose a child, or a parent?
  7. How do you suppose it would feel to have cancer, or Alzheimer's disease, or AIDS?
Even on a more common scale, how do you think it would feel to be really depressed, and full of despair, and not even know why?  How would it feel to feel all alone and unloved? How would it feel to be full of doubt and fear?  The point is that we need to climb into someone else's situation, at least mentally, and walk a mile or two in their shoes.  Once we do, we might find it easier to show some tender-hearted love and genuine forgiveness. When we feel as they feel, we might understand why they act and react as they do.  Understanding…that is all people really need.
Scripture to Claim:
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  Luke 6:36

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