The cure for my contempt (and yours too)

There’s so much contempt in the world.

Do you sense it? I hear it crashing through our walls in Cambodia as our neighbors fight and scream at each other. I see it in the taxi driver in Prague as he grips the steering wheel hard, honking and yelling at those who’ve deeply offended him. I smell its stench on Twitter.

And I sense it in me.

“Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

We must remember the mercy of God. Our families, churches, and ministries all need us to remember the overwhelming and beautiful mercy of God. Mercy is a mysterious thing, softening us to others and their stories, while also hardening us to the unavoidable and incontrovertible troubles of cross-cultural life and ministry.

And so we need – I need – to remember the mercy of God. The simple Jesus Prayer (above) and the simple song (below) are helping me deeply; perhaps they will help you too.

I will kneel in the dust
At the foot of the cross,
Where mercy paid for me.
Where the wrath I deserve,
It is gone, it has passed.
Your blood has hidden me.

What a tragedy if we cross sea and mountain, stone and water, and forget the mercy of God.

When missionaries forget mercy, we risk becoming arrogant jerks, convinced of our moral, educational, theological, and organizational superiority. A Cambodian friend of mine recently expressed her frustrations; “Missionaries always think they know everything about everything!” This happens just as easily on the theologically conservative side as the theologically liberal one.

We become the religious elite, thanking God that we’re not like the heathens. We don’t say it like that, of course, but the attitude can creep in; we’ve all seen church-planting folks who were anything but kind. We’ve all seen NGO folks who were just mean. Somewhere along the line they lost “the wonder of his mercy” and it shows.

May I never lose the wonder,
Oh, the wonder of Your mercy.
May I sing Your hallelujah.
Hallelujah, Amen.

If forgetting mercy doesn’t make us arrogant, it could make us depressed instead.

We can get stuck in our lostness, convinced we’re failures who will never measure up to God or our supporters and senders. The sad ones need the mercy of God too, to show that it never depended on us anyway, that there’s nothing to earn, nothing to prove, just a merciful God who is full of love and whose compassionate face is turned towards us.

Mercy, mercy,
As endless as the sea.
I’ll sing Your hallelujah
For all eternity.

Mercy prepares us for worship, which in turn fuels missions. Feeling the weight of his mercy naturally leads to a cry of Hallelujah!

Mercy means we don’t get stuck in our lostness or theirs. Mercy reorients us from us to him, and he is beautiful. Mercy reorients us from them (the arrogant, rude, terrible people around us) to him, and he is glorious.

So may you remember mercy this day, and may that remembrance keep you from both arrogance and despondency. May a deep awareness of the mercy of God stir up in you a shout of hallelujah. And may that shout echo across seas and over stones, revealing to all peoples the Hope of the Nations.

~ Jonathan

 

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Jonathan Trotter

Jonathan is the co-author of "Serving Well: Help for the Wannabe, Newbie, or Weary Cross-cultural Christian Worker." After serving in Cambodia for eight years, he relocated back to the States and now provides online pastoral care and empathetic coaching to global workers through Seeing the Hearts of the Hurting. Before moving to the field with Elizabeth and their four kids, he served as a youth pastor in the Midwest for ten years and as an inner-city ER/trauma nurse for three years. He enjoys walking with people towards Jesus and eating imported Twizzlers. | www.trotters41.com | facebook: trotters41 | instagram: @trotters41

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