Details. Details. Details.
Today “mercy”. That word is well known and well used. I desire mercy, not sacrifice. Be merciful. Show mercy. Have mercy on me. Mercy. Mercy. Mercy. Yada. Yada. Yada. Good Christian. Good Church speak. When and how. Where and to whom. How much and how little. Who deserves it and who does not. Sacrifice. Burden. Good Christian stuff yada yada yada .
“As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” Matthew 9:9-13
By default we seem to add to the pure simplicity of God Soft Hands Jesus – to “God” himself: Matthew the tax collector. All that history, context, sub-context, cultural stuff … the cheating, the lying, the hatred and the poison. And yet in these verses there is none of that. Here is “Matthew” simply sitting in “the vicinity” of a “tax booth”. Matthew leaves all that out – he just happened to be sitting somewhere in the area.
And I wonder – why do we need to keep on “bigging God up”? Why do we feel the need to keep “sanitising and purifying” God to others? Because something He wants me to see in this “detail” today is this:
Our constant “bigging Him up” makes us ever smaller. Ever undeserving. Ever corrosive to God.
For as we add the detail of Matthew’s (despicable!) career path, how he robbed from the poor AND rich all to make the Roman Empire viable, the Jewish authorities complicit, himself and his family (and his friends) uber rich … As we hold up God’s brilliant goodness against Man’s shitty crapness … All to show how Jesus “picked that man” – Jesus actually saved “that despicable man” …
We then apply that to you and me (who are even more disgustingly despicable to God’s eyes) – all of which means that “we” have a chance at being saved as well.
Because I was REALLY despicable in God’s eyes – but look at me now! Still despicable – but SAVED! And you can be too!
Where is the mercy in that?
Why abuse any beautiful creation in order “to save” that same beautiful creation we have now labelled (and caused them to self-label) a despicable perversion to all creation? Why do we “drag ourselves down” in order to have “Jesus” lift us up?
Do we do that with our own children? Do we do that with those we love? Do we do that with those we like even a little? And yes – I know abuse happens. I know cruelty happens. But … as an ever present institutional reason for “you can be saved too” … as an advert for Jesus … as a reason for reaching out to others (whether spoken or silent)?
Why … ?
I went back to Mounce for a look at this word “mercy” as used so often in the Good Book by us, and found this: “benefit which results from compassion, kindness, mercies, blessing … “
I like that. Mercy is not a word. Mercy is action resulting in benefit. Mercy “is” …
Hi Matthew, how are you. You are a beautiful creation. I love you. Let me show you how to love yourself. Let me show you how to really love others. To do that – how about we spend time together?
And “the church” – the reaction of good Christians who speak good church-speak? “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Them and us. Again and again and again. Consciously labelling “beautiful creations”. Consciously labelling them despicable perversions. All so that “we” can save “them”. I do not see Jesus doing that: Hi Matthew – want to hang together?
Mercy brings benefit. Mercy is the starting point. Mercy is kindness which benefits without distinction – without perversion – without “selection” of who should and who should not “benefit” – without judging who is and who is not “deserving”. And I wonder …
Can we be “as ordinary” as God Soft Hands Jesus (and if not – why not)?