Mercy, Not Sacrifice

A reading for Friday, June 6, 2014: Matthew 9:9-17.

What's easier, mercy or sacrifice? Is it easier to help others when they fail to keep the rules, or to keep the rules for yourself. Is it easier to forgive unrighteousness, or to live righteously.

Jesus said, "Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice."

The fundamental problem with seeking mercy rather than sacrifice is the difference between selflessness and selfishness.

Sacrifice is all about us. We believe it's about our commitment to God, but mostly it's about our sense of goodness and our need to be justified. Sacrifice in the ancient world was offered by a priest on behalf of another person. However, by the time of Jesus it had become more about the good people versus the unclean than about helping another connect with God. It was about self.

Mercy is only about the other. We can show mercy to ourselves, giving ourselves a break when we fail, but it's not really mercy in the sense of how Jesus meant it until it's offered to another. The tax collectors received mercy. The sinners too. The sick, the dying, the lame, the poor... all saved by Jesus through mercy. Mercy is about how we treat another person when they are in need of our help.

The basic question in learning what it means to desire mercy and not sacrifice is asking who this is about. When it comes to faith and religious practice, is this primarily about me? My needs being met Or is this about another person? Seeking out and saving the lost?

Are you about mercy? Or are you about sacrifice?


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