Reaching Out Starts with Looking Within

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Matthew 5:7

Recently, I watched the move, Billy, The Early Years of Billy Graham. In one of the scenes, a young Billy is sitting in class listening to a professor lecture. In answer to Billy’s question about who becomes an evangelist, the professor says, “It’s about the call. It’s about serving the one who died for you. It’s about His message.”

Lots of times the path God is leading us to follow begins in our own hearts. We reach a point when we must make the decision of what we are really trying to represent. Ourselves? Various social or political agendas? Financial gain?

The professor in this movie tells us that missions and evangelism is about promoting the gospel. The humble, life changing message that God’s own Son died for you. That’s it. Simple. Powerful. Deserving of a lifetime of service. We represent his message mindful of the level ground at the cross. No one is more deserving than anyone else. Or less. We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.

But the good news is that Christ died while we were still sinners. He saw our value before we had any. He gave us life and blessing and honor even when we didn’t really want it or see our need for it.

This is the essence of mercy. Jesus demonstrated grace even though it cost him. When people he came to save rejected him and chose unbelief, he gave anyway. I wonder if this is part of the call the professor from the Billy Graham movie is talking about. The invitation to join with Jesus in extending grace even when it hurts and offering generosity regardless of how well it is received.

R.T. Kendall writes in his book, The Sermon on the Mount, that there are two kinds of mercy. One kind is affectionate mercy. It is when you feel affection toward a person, even those who are unkind. The affectionate mercy is strong enough for others to sense when you are around them. R.T. Kendall says that is one of the differences between the “stiff upper lip”—which may leave you cold—and the genuine love that emanates from someone (p.49).

But then he says that there is another kind of mercy he terms aggressive mercy. This is when you go out of your way, possibly overruling your personal feelings. You do what is required. You may not necessarily feel affectionate toward those you are being merciful to, but you do it because it is right to do (p. 49).

Mission and evangelism produces fruit proportionate to our hearts’ answers to the call of mercy. What or who is it that each of us is trying to represent? Are we willing to serve the one who died for us? Does the gospel message transform us so deeply that we are ready to devote to it a lifetime of service?

Blessed are the merciful, Jesus teaches. Because, here comes the best part—they will be shown mercy. In offering God’s mercy to the world, we receive mercy from him. Only through this mercy do we live, serve, minister, and bring him glory.

Michelle De Bruin is a worship leader on staff at Third Reformed Church in Pella, Iowa.

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