Tension in Mercy
Living in the city, it’s a tension I experience daily. I pull up my car to a stoplight, and there stands a person, sign in hand, seeking money. Faces become familiar as people have corners they frequent.
But today was different. I saw Isaac.
Just hours before, Isaac showed up at our church. I greeted him at the door, and he and I had a long conversation about where he was in life and his church background. He joined our worship service, met a number of people, and talked with one of our elders afterward.
This happens to us—people who live nearby walk to our church and share their stories. They seek a handout at the end of it all. It’s hard not to become calloused. We know they truly have needs, but we also know their practiced stories aren’t always completely true. We strive to be “shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). The policy of our church is to give some money once and take down the person’s information, seeking to hold them accountable and begin a relationship.
When I saw Isaac at the corner, my heart dropped. Earlier he’d walked up our church’s two flights of stairs to get to the sanctuary; here at the corner he leaned deceptively on crutches with his homemade sign. Just when I’d hoped this time the story I’d been told was sincere, reality struck.
I’m sad because this experience fuels my skepticism. While my heart longs to be empathetic, I find myself becoming numb and doubtful. So when I hear the call to enact justice, provide mercy, and fight for those who are the least of these, I have to realize that Isaac is one of them. Just because he deceived me, it doesn’t mean his physical and spiritual needs are any less important to God. It doesn’t make me better than him.
It just highlights that I’m blessed with what I have and my relationship with Jesus—and I need to be sure others truly know him as well.