Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.Luke 6:36
These words remind me of Rambo.
That’s what everyone in our middle school called him. Rambo wore a camouflaged mesh trucker cap, cowboy boots, Wranglers and western shirts with pearl snaps – long before hipsters made any of that cool.
His hands were knotted up, his arms unable to straighten completely, and his legs were stiff and turned in so that walking was slow and difficult. More difficult was speaking. His stutter, an excess of saliva, and thick East Texas twang made him difficult to understand.
The popular kids kept Rambo around as a kind of programmable jester – trading their “friendship” for his obedience. One day after lunch, I watched them send Rambo into the girls’ locker room to hear their screams and laugh – patting a grinning Rambo on the back when he emerged laughing too. “I scared ’em real good!”
I always felt bad for Rambo but never intervened, never learned his real name either.
Then one day mom and I were at the mall and I saw Rambo crying off in the distance. Alone. Mom went to him – I followed.
She asked him his name.
“Mmmichael,” he managed.
“Where are your parents?”
While a security guard searched for Michael’s mother, my mother comforted him. She dried his tears, assured him he was no bother to us, and that his mother would be there soon.
I don’t know if compassion is genetic but if it is I got mine from mom. Compassion is the ability to suffer with those who are suffering – and my mom feels the pain of those around her…and characters in movies…and strangers on the news…and actors in commercials…and lost boys at the mall. She feels deeply and cries unashamedly.
But mercy is something more than compassion. Mercy is learned. My mother taught me.
Mercy is compassion turned into action.
Compassion is grieving that slavery exists. Mercy is changing how I shop.
Compassion is wishing there were fewer orphans in the world. Mercy is adopting one.
Compassion is being angry at injustice. Mercy is giving your time and your money to defending the oppressed.
Compassion is feeling sorry for Rambo. Mercy is learning his name, comforting, waiting, reuniting.
Just like my mother. As my Father.
• What prevents me from moving from compassion to mercy?
Jesus, who came to Earth to show us the love of the Father, love through us today. God, who was moved to the cross, please move us to those who are lost. Turn our feelings into sacrificial, joyful, generous action.