Thursday, March 21, 2013

Showing Mercy

I want to be compassionate and help those in need. To this end my church has funds set aside to use at my discretion - not a lot, but we want to do what we can. Usually, in this area, that means helping folks with lodging. But that can be a very frustrating enterprise. First, because as soon as I help one person, the floodgates open and I can get several calls from the same location. Word gets around. I wish the Gospel spread like that! But are these people truly in need? Or just know a good thing when they hear it? I get suspicious, which I suppose I should, but I don't want to be. Just this week I helped a man on Monday and then on Wednesday I get a call from a woman staying in the room right next door to him. "Oh, so Bob (made up name) told you about us?" I said. "Bob?" she asked, feigning ignorance. Just tell me the truth please! I still helped her. I don't believe she was being completely honest with me, and I told her so, but I helped anyway and gave her some things to read. I hope she reads them. I also will pray for her and "Bob."

Why did I help? Well, I believe we should. I am disappointed that more churches around here do not. Times are tough, I know. But this seems like a basic human thing to do. I also like helping people in need. I don't like sending them away. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I have to. I wish we had more funds to do so. By helping, I get to put a compassionate and merciful face on the church and I hope that makes a difference.

I also always remember these words from Luther's explanation to the Fifth Commandment in the Large Catechism:

Second, a person who does evil to his neighbor is not the only one guilty under this commandment. It also applies to anyone who can do his neighbor good, prevent or resist evil, defend, and save his neighbor so that no bodily harm or hurt happen to him—yet does not do this [James 2:15–16]. If, therefore, you send away someone who is naked when you could clothe him, you have caused him to freeze to death. If you see someone suffer hunger and do not give him food, you have caused him to starve. So also, if you see anyone innocently sentenced to death or in similar distress, and do not save him, although you know ways and means to do so, you have killed him. It will not work for you to make the excuse that you did not provide any help, counsel, or aid to harm him. For you have withheld your love from him and deprived him of the benefit by which his life would have been saved. [From Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions. 2005 (P. T. McCain, Ed.) (380). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.]
So, do I get taken advantage of? Probably. Do I help people in real need? I know I do. No one said it was gonna be easy.

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