I was reading a review of a book that was written by Abbey Johnson, a former director of a Planned Parenthood abortion facility in Texas. In her book she said, “It was not those who yelled and called me names,” that brought about a change in her life. She explained that in addition to God’s grace it was mercy and compassion from some people that opened her heart again. Mercy and love are what those who are still involved in abortion need to hear, not hostility.
In general, those who are doing what is wrong don’t respond to further condemnation; that only serves to harden their hearts even more. But showing compassion and mercy is not always easy because the hardness is never far from any of our hearts, and it is easier to become angry with indignation, than it is to keep an open and gentle heart for others when we feel threatened, or what we believe in is challenged by the words or behaviour of others. It’s easier to withdraw into our self-defensive position than to risk ridicule or hurt by being open and kind to them.
Sometimes people who do wrong do wrong because they are hurting, and to win them over all it takes is to show them kindness. They are only too willing to change and to open themselves to receive the compassion that is given to them. Sometimes though, people do what is evil because they are selfishly getting something out of it for themselves and no matter how much kindness or compassion they are shown, they are not interested. You can’t always tell the difference, so sometimes your offer of kindness and compassion will be rebuffed – painfully. It takes courage and it takes strength of character to take the risk and offer the kindness in the first place. It is easier to close off any dialogue by shouting condemnations and hurling insults back and forth.
The year of mercy has to be about taking those risks or it will be only empty talk. It has to be about helping people realise the mercy that is waiting for them. Not a human mercy, but something that is much deeper; our mercy can only prepare the way for what is really important by helping closed hearts open up again to something much better than we can give, something that only God can give.
So often it’s our actions that close hearts in the first place. Only God can bring the healing their hearts need but we can have the great joy of preparing the way a little by our compassion and mercy. Perhaps too it’s only when we know the joy of God’s mercy in our own life that we can really begin to understand the healing that it can bring to others. It is in the joy of knowing His mercy that the real healing takes place.