Justice and Mercy

We’re about to enter the season of practicing gratitude for what we have and those we love. It’s a time for considering others as more important than ourselves, remembering that it’s still more blessed to give than to receive. Shall we inaugurate this change of weather and thought with a little outward-focused contemplation? Our adventure with the Proverbs 31 woman (and recognizing that we are all her) continues with the concept of serving others. If you need a refresher on the basics, read this first.

Verse 20 is the center of Ms. P’s perspective on those who live with less: “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.”

Confession: I’ve gotten worse at this over time. When I was little, I’d spend my personal money on beggars on vacation, bums on the street corners, and waiters who looked like they could use some extra cash. As a grown-up(ish) person, though, I find myself avoiding eye contact with these same groups. I feel relieved when they exit my line of sight and thought. My favorite communal blog is home to a group of writers who regularly visit third-world countries with the express intent of raising awareness among their readers. I don’t hate these annual accounts of dirt floors and babies with bloated bellies; they just make me feel uncomfortable and lazy and guilty.

God means for His people to be extensions of His kingdom, bringing hope and healing to a world in need. The go-to passage on this topic is Micah 6:8, which says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Groan.

The need is so great. I am so measly. And my want-to is severely lacking.

Maybe what my heart should hear is that there are opportunities to “do what the Lord requires” all around me. I can’t fill every empty belly or floor every hut. I can’t fix the whole world. But I am called to engage it. To look into the eyes whose light has gone out. To dress the wounds of the battered and broken. Even if it’s just the next lightless, battered, broken person I encounter—and then the next, and then the next. These precious souls can be transformed in my mind from guilt-inducing inconveniences in my normal life to divine appointments intended as two-way blessings. (I never said the way I think is pretty. It’s not. And apart from grace, I’m a wretch. Nice to meet you.)

Our girl in Proverbs doesn’t let her gaze slide over those who need help. She doesn’t reject the humanity of the guy with the sign or the invalid on the sidewalk. There is a joy, a fulfillment in the way she loves those who interrupt her regularly scheduled programming. I even wonder if they were part of her regularly scheduled programming?

Instead of being the hands and feet of Jesus, lately I’ve just practiced being His butt.

That’s right. I can talk about Jesus’ butt. I’m a butt expert with lots of experience.

The thing is, when I avoid really seeing the needy there’s no telling whose eyes Christ is hiding behind. I could be missing Him everywhere. As far as my want-to being broken goes, God doesn’t ask me to desire to obey. He’s even okay with me being uncomfortable with it (as long as that discomfort doesn’t affect my submission). All I’m asked to do is surrender to what He longs to do through me with a resounding “Yes.” Sometimes, a girl just has to suck it up and stop being the rear end.

With the creativity, compassion, and confidence of my big Brother (Jesus) and my big sister (the Proverbs 31 woman), God’s kingdom can reach at least a little farther than if I were to continue avoiding justice and mercy. The beautiful truth is that when I sit down across from the least of these, seeing who they really are, I see who I really am—a needy beggar of Bread, just like them. Suddenly it’s not so scary or shameful. It’s just freeing.

I can love because I am loved.

How about you?

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