A home of mercy . . . Our homes are to be havens of hospitality, sharing the love of our Savior, but also shelters of mercy through prayer and sacrifice.
The merciful home is the prayer-saturated home, where petition and praise are daily offered up to the Creator, the Father of all mercy, the One who has begotten us to “a living hope” (I Peter 1:3), and chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8)-in the great mystery of the ages.
It is prayer-filled, because mercy cannot dwell where prayer doesn’t dwell—the true mercy that points the hurting towards the Healer of souls and Hearer of the downcast—prayer is the fountain and mercy is the glorious refreshment that flows from it.
“We love Him, because He first loved us” (I John 4:19), and therefore we love the brethren and have compassion on those who are “going astray”(Hebrews 5:2) as Jesus did, upon those who have not yet tasted His salvation and mercy. We have mercy because of Him –on our dear brothers and sisters in their need, whatever it may be, and also upon a world that is dying in their sin—“ And then Jesus looked at the multitude and had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). Mercy does not snub and snobbishly think of its own election; mercy does not parade, but implores the hurting to be healed and the dying to taste and see that the Lord is good. This attitude of mercy must begin in the Church and then flood the homes of believers who are the light of the world and the salt of the earth.
The home that is merciful is the home in which the Savior resides, where there is spiritual healing and joy and grace and truth.
The home that is merciful is also the home that is often misunderstood, by both Christians and non-Christians alike. It is misunderstood, because Jesus was, and often the Holy Spirit’s direction, though always consistent with Scripture, does not make “common sense” to those around us. And so they will question the merciful home and possibly balk at its unusual ways. We need to be ready for people not to understand why we open our homes to foster children, and orphans, and to the forgotten-elderly, and yes, to abused and discarded animals, when the Lord places these things particularly upon our hearts, no matter the inconvenience to our comfort.
“His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 136) . . . and our mercy is to mirror His, stretching on and on before us, reflecting His love and work in our lives, always pointing to the Great Father of lights (James 1:17) and bringing glory to Him.
And this is mercy that does not come from us, but from Him working in and through us as we submit to Him, in earnest, honest reverence. He is the One who does the work, and we yield to Him—otherwise we would have reason to boast in ourselves, to boast in our benevolent efforts. When we recognize His work in and through us, the realization produces humility. And humility produces action—a response to the One who graciously gives us all things (Romans 8:32). Our desire for our homes will be for them to become havens of mercy, through His work in our lives and hearts.
Jesus calls us to be merciful, and there are specific ways that His mercy may be made manifest through us, and in our homes. What is it that mercy does? Here are some of the actions that the Lord as been opening my own heart to, that reverent, humble, Spirit-filled mercy takes--
Mercy reaches out towards the lowly—Who do we offer our hospitality to, who do we invite to our homes on Sunday afternoons; do we welcome those who cannot repay us with a similar invitation? (Luke 14:14) Do we gravitate towards the most “popular” people in church, or do our hearts have compassion on those who are socially “beneath” us? Do we love the “alien and the stranger,” or do we briskly walk past them to our preferred pew, barely nodding hello? Do we invite them into our homes and our hearts? Do I secretly reach toward those I deem to be the “important” people? What are the motives of my heart? We need to continually pray that the Spirit of truth would cleanse our inner motives with His purity in these areas.
Mercy also protects the weak, and this applies to both people and animals. We are familiar with William Wilberforce’s efforts to end slavery in England, but most people are not aware that he was also instrumental in establishing the SPCA. The cruel practices of the English people in his day towards animals (bull-baiting, cock-fighting, etc.) deeply bothered Wilberforce’s sensitive conscience, and he sought with final success, to outlaw these inhumane practices. There is a sensitivity of the regenerate conscience that should be awoken towards suffering and pain that are a consequence of the fall. If the Lord’s eyes are too pure to look upon evil (Habbakuk 1:13), and if His eye is upon each “worthless” sparrow that falls (Matthew 10:29-31), then we should hate to see any creature suffering, and put a stop to it, if we are able to.
As this principle applies to people, when our fellow bothers and sisters are going through times of suffering, we should be the first to reach out to them in mercy. We should meet their urgent needs, “weeping with those who weep,” praying with and for them, and laying aside our own interests to attend the needs of others. We should be known for our mercy and protection of the weak through the power of Jesus Christ working in and through us—towards the unborn, towards the elderly and infirm, towards the poor, and towards the poor in spirit. “Be merciful, then, as your Father in heaven is merciful . . . (Luke 6:36).” Corrie Ten Boom and the Ten Boom family are an excellent example of this principle, secretly opening their home to hide persecuted Jews during WWII, at a great cost to themselves. Our homes may be used as shelters of mercy towards both human beings, made in the image of God, and toward His creation surrounding us.
Mercy gives a cup of cold water to a little child. Mercy is especially tender towards the little ones around us whose hearts are yet soft and teachable. There are little ones who live in our homes, whom the Lord has given us responsibility for, and little ones who ought to be invited into our homes. There is an open-ness about children, an unassuming-ness that adults have lost. Mercy remembers that Jesus said, “Let the little children come unto Me, and do not forbid them, for of such is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:14).” Mercy reaches out in love towards little children and mercy realizes that we must become as little children to be able to enter the kingdom of heaven and taste the gentle, Fatherly love of the Lord. Mercy is not “wise” to everyone and everything—Mercy is childlike and Father-trusting. Mercy seeks and craves the light through the darkness of this sin-sick world filled with so much pain and agony and wretchedness. This light is the Gospel of the glory of Jesus Christ (II Corinthians 4:4), and we hold it in our hands and in our hearts. Let the little children learn of Him in our homes through our loving, gentle hospitality and welcoming spirit towards them, whether this means raising our own children in the ways of the Lord, or welcoming other little ones into our homes as the Lord sends them to us.
Mercy is humble, and doesn’t seek to draw attention to itself. The merciful man or woman does not desire to draw attention to the fact that he is being merciful, and thereby embarrass the recipient of his mercy. It is usually obvious to all around us when we are showing mercy in a self-exalting spirit. D. L. Moody says, “A man can counterfeit love, he can counterfeit faith, he can counterfeit hope and all the other graces, but it is very difficult to counterfeit humility.” Furthermore, the “ability” to be humble doesn’t come from our own efforts; this is a lesson that I am continually learning. Lillias Trotter writes, “We have not to produce out of our higher nature a lowliness and a patience and a purity of our own, but simply to let the pure, patient, lowly life of Jesus have its way in us by yieldingness to it and by faith in its indwelling might. All that God wants from man is opportunity. The whole of our relationship to His power, whether for sanctification or for service, is summed up in those words.” Mercy is humble because the one who shows mercy realizes that he has been the recipient of it, though undeserved. The merciful home is also the humble home, filled with a sense of all that He has done for His people.
Mercy is many things, but above all, mercy is grateful—grateful to the One Who gave His mercy first. It may be said, that we are able to be merciful because He was first merciful to us . . . So out of the outpouring of gratitude towards our Savior, may our homes be havens of mercy and our hearts be filled with the merciful, abiding presence of the Savior of our souls—delightful joyful dwelling places of peace and rest.