When I look back on my life as a Christian, echoes of mercy bounce off the pages of the journey. From the age of 15 to almost 20 I lost my ever-loving mind. I like to blame it on the frontal lobe and point to study after study that shows this biological force for making good choices isn’t fully developed until our late 20’s. My parents never bought that either. For years I blamed them for moving me to a new school when I was 15. The truth is, I loved Jesus but was more concerned with what I wanted in life than what He wanted for me or who He called me to be. Through all of that, and still now, mercy brought me to the cross.
Recently there was all of this news about kids getting in trouble at a school function for underage drinking. People in the community pointed fingers and called for punishment. Some shook their heads and asked for understanding. Somewhere in between neon leg warmers and the Twitter/social media craze, I was a teenager. Life as a teenager is hard. It was hard then and it seems even harder now. There will more than likely be moments when you want to look at the teenager in your life and flick them in their forehead while a question mark appears in one of those cartoon bubbles above your head. At the beginning of my senior year in high school a friend and I were arrested for underage drinking. I was the President of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Not joking. I got kicked off the homecoming court and had to sit out several tennis matches. I was dumb. I made a really stupid choice and took a few sips out of a good ole red solo cup at my first college party. My parents were embarrassed and angry. My coaches and principal were disappointed. I let my friend’s parents down that trusted my friendship with their daughter.
If that wasn’t enough, I also dated a guy in high school that was a fixer upper. Lord bless my momma and daddy for all the projects I brought through the door. This particular one, he was the stuff of parental nightmares. My mom found a letter one day that I know now as a parent would have brought intense sadness. You don’t raise your daughters to allow people to treat them that way. Yes, ma’am you taught me better.
More than any punishment or scolding or finger pointing because of my choices throughout those years, the one thing I was offered that changed me was mercy.
I remember my Principal coming to my home several times to tell me and my parents that he knew I was a good kid and I wasn’t my mistake. My parents gave me consequences but they also helped me move past it and gave me opportunities to gain their trust back. My friend’s parents continued to love me and I spent as much time in their home in high school as I did my own. I truly believe the way my parents handled that letter they found saved me from becoming the lead in one of those afterschool hallmark specials. I won’t ever forget my momma telling me she forgave me and Jesus forgave me and it was time for me to forgive myself. Mercy.
I don’t share all of this so you have fuel with which to roast me someday. I share this because I came to care very much about God’s will for my life. I believe, in large part due to the mercy shown to me by others because they understood fully the mercy given to them in Christ. I share this because there isn’t a single one of us without sin. I could just as easily share mistakes I made just this week. My mistakes, my sin, re why Jesus came. I need a Savior. I need His mercy. We all do. I am thankful that God chose not to stand upon His throne with crown in hand and exclude me from His love. I am thankful He chose mercy and joined me in the mess of my life. I am thankful for believers that chose to love me through my mess. Mercy is messy. Loving others well is messy. We are called to the mess.
You can judge the kid and their parents for making bad choices or the Olympic athlete transitioning from male to female. You can talk about the next door neighbor whose marriage is struggling or the guy at the work functions that drinks too much. You can point your finger and shout your rules and stand on the claims of your values or you can show mercy. You can show love. You can share Jesus. That changes lives. It changed my life. Judgments, ridicule, shame, don’t belong in the Gospel.
Jesus never stood on a mountaintop pointing down at sinners condemning them. He said come to me and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
And God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:10-13
Jesus came for me. Jesus said he loves me and you, the transgender Olympian, the teen making poor choices, the gossip, the housewife coveting her neighbor’s life, the man drinking too much to escape life’s responsibilities…I love you all…even the one sitting back judging all the others. I paid the price. Mercy wins.