There is a truth about our culture that most of us are subtly unaware of, but it affects our thinking and our living. It's the truth, or more accurately, the reality that taking care ME is the most important thing.
We have, through our focus on advertising and personal fulfillment, created a narcissistic culture. For me it's a constant battle to think well in the flood of others going the opposite direction, thinking differently. To live counter-cultural to this narcissistic mindset is extremely difficult and I far too often fail, but a passage of scripture draws me back to clarity time and again. Here is the passage that has become, for me, a road map away from this narcissistic mindset,
Luke 6:27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
In these few thoughts I want to focus on verse 36. With amazing clarity Jesus challenges his followers to live others focused, giving and not taking, extending grace when it's undeserved, but in 36 he calls us to the highest calling of all, "Be merciful, JUST AS your Father is merciful." In those eight words I find my greatest challenge....the challenge to extend mercy when it's often the last response I have.
Mercy is not giving what is due. It's overlooking an offense, being kind when the other person is mean, being sweet when the one you're with is horrible, loving when you are hated. It's how God treats us...with an undeserved mercy. Even now, in the shadow of the horrible tornado in Oklahoma, some are writing that this is a judgment of God on the "sinners" in Oklahoma. Shame on them! This is not the heart of God, this is not his judgment. He is the mercy giver, the grace extender, the lover of the lost, the forgiver of the failed, he is now and will be until he returns the mercy giver.
His challenge to me is to live that way in the narcissistic world around me. It's counter-cultural. It's often hard, but it's constantly my quest...to be a mercy giver like my Father.