For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "Sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and Sinners?""
On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who needs a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means; I desire meercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners."
Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you." Matt. 21:31
I have a friend at my job who is not a Believer, but she has an excellent quality of mercy. I complimented her for it the other night. As is usually the case with a character trait like this, she didn't even realize it...it's just something she does.
I notice it, because it is in very short supply.
For practical purposes, Mercy is when you cut someone plenty of slack for their faults. Often, this is a result of having a good memory for all of the stupid things you did once upon a time. (Not that I would have the foggiest idea about any of that.)
So this morning I got new tires for my VUE. I love that car, and if it were not a violation of God's law I would consider proposing to it. Now my car is a much happier car. It is also much safer to drive now that a Minnesota winter is staring at me from behind the bushes next door.
My Dad came with me so that we could have breakfast. There is nothing to do at the tire place, and not even an area to sit down. So in lieu of picking my nose for an hour in public, we went and got pancakes. This was a good option.
So dad and I were eating away and he asked me some questions. He asked me what I thought about salvation for those who do not know Jesus.
This is always an interesting question. More often than not, if asked by an unbeliever it is usually a tactic to change the subject. "Yeah, so what about people who have never had the chance to even hear of Jesus?" Something along that line.
Generally speaking, in this country, even with the horrible preachers on the TV and radio, there is no excuse. But even so, it isn't my place to make decisions for Jesus.
I do believe that when Jesus said that he was the way, truth & life, and that no one comes to the Father except through him, he meant it. (It's also really hard to misinterpret that line unless you really put some effort into it.) But I also know the verse; "And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Joel 2:32) and that was pre-Jesus.
Many years ago, Billy Graham was being interviewed by Robert Schuller. Billy said that he thought that there were many people around the world who were "Christians", but didn't even know it. He caught more than a bit of flack for that. But I think he is correct. (If you are a High Calvinist, this would make complete sense.)
It's easy to wear a label. However, God is the only one who really knows the heart. I theorized to my Dad that maybe there are folks out there who are so stuck in their sin, so down trodden, so broken and shamed, that they can't get out from under it. Maybe, just maybe, in that state of being they simply cry in their heart for mercy to that thing that they know is greater than they. They know deep in their bones that they have and are nothing, so they just cry out.
I do not believe that my God is deaf.
I can't get past the chastising that Jesus gave the Pharisees about Hookers getting into heaven while they were left behind. It just strikes me that Jesus might know something we don't.
I am not a Universalist by any means. I know plenty of people who are fully aware of Jesus, and they hate him. Some even actively oppose him. It breaks my heart because I know that someday they will have to answer to him. Not to be flippant, but their way has a terrible retirement plan.
I am a big believer in the quality of Mercy. I am convinced of God's mercy because I am still here. As much as I try his patience, I have yet to receive the big squish. I need to remind myself of that when I interact with other people.
We live in a world without much in the way of mercy. America is a dog eat dog nation, and our politics and economics has little value for mercy. This country will answer for that some day. You and I work with people that rarely show any mercy to others. But when you see it in action, it is such a beautiful thing.
My friend is beautiful because of this quality.
Mercy and patience go hand in hand. It difficult to have one without the other. God has been patient with me, and as a result has shown me great mercy. The attributes of God are many, but I tend to like that one the best.
P.S. As a bonus, here's a couple of Secular versions of this attribute.