A few weeks ago, my parents kept my kids and allowed me to go to Keystone Church‘s Communion Gathering. I was tired that Sunday. Worn out, actually. I had been working much, traveling much, and patient with my girls and Justin little. I felt small and broken. And there was a song we sang that I didn’t know but one line washed over me:
Now’s the time for us to rise
and carry hope to hopeless eyes
and show this world that mercy is alive
Mercy is alive. As I sang those words, I realized that is what draws me to Keystone, and indeed to any gathering of authentic Believers. Mercy is alive. Mercy is alive. Mercy is alive.
That rang through my spirit like a bell – shaking the core of who I am. Mercy is alive.
It started me thinking. About how much in need of mercy I am. About how I can show mercy to others. About maybe that the point of this life for us Believers left here on earth with a heart for heaven is to show mercy to the others remaining around us who are hurting and lost.
It also made me think that maybe I don’t show the church enough mercy. And by the church, I mean the total number of Believers on this planet – the Bride of Christ. I have struggled with frustration with the church for a while. I feel sometimes like the church is sleeping, only slightly less self-involved than the world we are sent to reach. And on those days, mercy towards the church is hard to find in this heart of mine.
So the Lord sent me to Hosea. It is so frustrating and yet so powerful a picture of mercy. In a nutshell, the Lord is angry with Israel. They are continuously unfaithful, continuously returning to their sin, yet He loves them. So the Lord goes to a prophet named Hosea and commands him to marry a prostitute who the Lord knows will be unfaithful. Hosea, in small measure, is going to live a life demonstrating how the Lord feels every time Israel is unfaithful. Poor man – his home is about to be the most unfortunate word picture in history. Hosea’s wife, Gomer, despite his love and patience and kindness, returns again and again to her sin. And each time, Hosea invites her back. Throughout the book you see, in poetic measure, this push/pull relationship between the Lord and Israel. He is kind to Israel, and they draw close, and then over time they run back to sin, so He rejects them for a moment as they face the consequences of their actions, and then when they are lost and hopeless, He woos them back and they return to Him. And it all starts again.
Sound familiar? It does to me. This rejection/relinquishment/wooing process has happened in my own life a thousand times. But it also reminds me of my relationship with other broken sinful people. We hurt each other, we turn away, we realize our need, we return to each other. This is why our families are so messy. Even the best families struggle with this broken cycle. We are sinful people living out the story of Hosea over and over in every relationship in our lives, demonstrating our collective need for mercy.
And since we make up the church – the church lives this out too. The church will draw close to the Lord, then run back to sin, and the Lord will reject them for a moment and allow them to glimpse life without Him, and then He draws them back repentant. This is why the church has sometimes been on the wrong side of cultural issues, for example slavery. The church is not perfect – in fact, we are like a prostitute returning to her sin. But we have a bridegroom who pursues us, woos us, urges us to return to Him. He loves us with an everlasting love, despite our continuous inability to get it right.
We aren’t rejected, we are still His bride. Why? Because mercy is alive. Do you get that it is personal? That it isn’t a concept – it is a PERSON. Mercy is ALIVE. Jesus is ALIVE. Jesus is mercy.
So, since we are ourselves playing the role of Gomer, living in a church full of Gomers, may we recognize the Gomers all around us, and show mercy. Because when we show mercy, we show Jesus to a lost world.
- The son who runs away time and time again – he is a Gomer.
- The daughter who returns to drugs despite the perpetual destruction of her life – she is a Gomer.
- The stubborn atheist in a search for truth anywhere but the cross – Gomer.
- The people who have made sinful decisions that have hurt your family – Gomers.
- Me in my impatience with my children and my stubborn insistence on my rights and control – Gomer.
But all of us have a Hosea, our powerful Creator who loves us and knew the circumstances of today before a single day came into existence. Jesus is alive, Jesus is mercy, and He will not give up. He loves us and pursues us.
So we should not give up. On ourselves, on others.
Our job, as Believers, is to live in the mercy of our King and to show the world that mercy is alive. The same mercy that right now allows us to breathe……..this……..breath………. He is alive. He loves us all.
Thank you Jesus for your love and mercy on me – a Gomer of Gomers. Please help me to show mercy – to show YOU – to a world around me today.