This is not a name we generally associate with mercy.
In Genesis 18:23-33, one reads a conversation between Abraham and God. God decides to share with Abraham the divine plan to destroy the city of Sodom because extreme wickedness has been attributed to the inhabitants of that place. In response, Abraham wonders aloud if God would destroy the good and honest people who just happen to live in Sodom. In the conversation, Abraham asks the question: "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?"
As the conversation progresses, God tells Abraham if fifty righteous people can be found in Sodom, the city will not be destroyed. Abraham, knowing his nephew Lot lives there, bargains God down to ten.
That was an expression of God's mercy.
In other words, if ten righteous people could be found in the city (historians estimate the population of the city was between 600 and 1200), God would not destroy it. For the sake of ten righteous people, God would allow at least several hundred unrighteous to continue on.
That is the height of mercy. That is a massive expression of love for the righteous and tolerance for the unrighteous.
As many of us who are familiar with the story know, when angelic visitors arrive at Sodom to evaluate the situation, a series of events unfold:
1) Lot convinces the visitors to spend the night at his home. Originally, the visitors planned to spend the night in the town square. Visitors spending the night in a town square was a common practice at that time.
2) A mob (all of the men of the city, says the text in Genesis 19:4) gathers outside of Lot's house, demanding Lot bring out the men for sex.
3) Lot refuses, offering his virgin daughters to the crowd as sex substitutes in place of the angelic male visitors.
4) The mob, enraged by Lot's offer, attempts to enter Lot's house by force.
5) The visitors securely return Lot to the inside of his house and strike the mob with blindness. Lot is warned the city will be destroyed.
Lot then attempts to warn the young men engaged to his daughters that the city will be destroyed by God, and they must soon make their escape. The young men refuse to come with him. The text states they thought he was joking. Genesis 19:14: "So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, 'Up! Get out of this place, for the LORD is about to destroy the city'. But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be joking."
By dawn, the visitors were urging Lot to get out of town. It is possible Lot was completely disoriented by the events of the previous twelve hours.
In verses 15 and 16 of Chapter 19 of Genesis: "As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying 'Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city'. But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the
hand, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city."
Another expression of mercy.
Lot was warned to escape to the hills. In response to this, Lot complains he can't get that far, and asks if he could instead escape to a smaller, nearby city. The angelic visitor responded "...Behold, I grant you this favor also, that I will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. Escape there
quickly, for I can do nothing till you arrive there." (Genesis 19: 21 and 22).
Another expression of mercy.
Lot finally makes it to the small city of Zoar as the destruction of Sodom is underway. Lot's wife ("behind him" says the text in Genesis 19:26), looked back at Sodom and became a pillar of salt. She was destroyed, having met the same fate as those who physically remained in the city.
Some have said the destruction of Sodom wasn't very merciful, but was a picture of the actions of an angry, unloving God.
I suppose one could read it that way. Still, I am mindful that ten righteous people could not be found in a city of several hundred or a thousand. I am mindful that even the few who escaped had to be dragged away (did not go willingly or quickly) and one of them (Lot's wife) stayed so far behind (physically or emotionally)that she was consumed in the destruction she turned back to witness.
Finally, I believe God showed much more mercy than many of us have shown to those who act wickedly. Do you doubt this? Read the comments section of any major news source when a horrendous crime is committed. There you will find no shortage of cries to "hang them", "fry them", and other suggested punishments I won't recite.
Actually, God shows much more mercy than we show to those who have done the wrong thing.
It did not end well for Lot. Read the rest of chapter 19 of Genesis. After the escape from Sodom, Lot fell into drunkenness and incest with his two daughters. Sodom left its stain on them, even though they escaped physically. Those who remained behind were destroyed. But in each case,
destruction was a result of the choices made by those who could have chosen good over evil.
Mercy was offered, even at the gates of Sodom.
From 2 Samuel 22:26-28:
"With the merciful you show yourself merciful;
with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;
with the purified you deal purely,
and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.
You save a humble people, but your eyes are on the the haughty
to bring them down."
I've noticed increasingly strident and even angry blog posts and opinion pieces recently regarding the question of what the true church can or should do in days of apostasy. For some reason, many seem to believe we are in a time of extreme apostasy. I am not certain this is true, but once again the topic has arisen. Here are some thoughts on the subject.
Like many, I watched video of family members of the Charleston Nine (Emanuel AME Church members murdered in a mass shooting at the church this week) express forgiveness to the confessed shooter during a court hearing.
It has been suggested it is too soon to forgive. What does that mean? Why does it matter?
It is never too soon to affirm the intention to forgive. That's where forgiveness begins--with intent. From intent, we may move to the deep, emotional freedom that comes with true forgiveness. That true forgiveness frees us from the poison of an offender's words or actions. That's why Jesus taught his disciples to forgive. It all begins with intent.
When I watched a sobbing woman lament the loss of a loved one in open court and heard her broken voice proclaim forgiveness, I knew I was watching a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
This woman was not proclaiming damnation for the mass murder. No words were spoken about God's vengeance and hate, or Hell and suffering. This woman was following the example of her Lord, who spoke forgiveness while suffering a torturous death on a cross. This woman was speaking the words her loved ones, now worshiping with the Church Triumphant, would want her to speak. Through her tears, she was affirming the power of hate would not dominate or claim her goodness and take it away. She was affirming an eternal truth: the acts of the spirit are greater than the acts of the flesh.
All of this matters because what is said now will determine how well the survivors heal, continue their lives, and honor the memory and legacy of those who are gone from our view.
It all begins when forgiveness is spoken. Forgiveness does not minimize or rationalize away or excuse the horror and injustice of what was done. Forgiveness does not mean anyone should have warm, fuzzy feelings for the shooter.
Forgiveness means the survivors have taken their power and decided to reclaim their true selves from the pain and injury of what was done. Forgiveness means they begin to cancel the power of hate. It all begins with intent. It is not something any of us naturally do. The power to forgive is a gift from God.
(c) 2015 Deborah Evans
National Association of Non Custodial Moms: www.facebook.com/NANCM.org
Parental Alienation Awareness Organization: paawareness.org/
Have you heard of these groups? When you learn a woman does not have custody of her child, do you assume she is an addict of some type, or mentally ill, or morally unfit to raise her child or children?
If you make these assumptions, you are wrong.
Many noncustodial moms lost a legal battle with a well funded or abusive ex husband or ex partner. Perhaps this mother trusted someone who promised to take care of her child during a crisis, but that someone was simply creating a pretext for taking custody of that child. Perhaps this mother fled an abusive situation (taking her children with her) and was unable to finance the legal battle to maintain custody.
Yes, there are some women who are not ready or willing to raise their children. But, there are many who were not able to prevail in a court system that favors the well connected and well funded. Mother's Day is always a challenge for these women.
Perhaps you have custody (full or part) of your child, but you have been a victim of parental alienation. I have written about parental alienation elsewhere on this blog: watch out for the unexpected alienator, how to reunite after parental alienation, when to give up the legal battle in court . You have your child with you, or have access to them on a regular basis, but you are struggling with negative brainwashing that has been imposed on your child. You and your child once had a close, loving relationship. Now, that child disrespects you, doesn't appreciate you, destroys your property, and says they hate you or wish you were dead.
There is no rational basis for your child's beliefs, but the beliefs are deeply held. Your child insists these are their own thoughts, that he or she was not programmed or brainwashed by anyone.
What happens on Mother's Day when this is your story? What can you do when your children are not physically or emotionally with you?
Allow yourself to choose how you spend the day. Don't mask your grief by accepting dinner invitations or invitations from friends who insist you should not be alone. Perhaps you would prefer to spend the day alone looking at old photo albums, watching a movie you once happily shared with your children, or cooking a favorite meal all of you once enjoyed together. Allow yourself these pleasures if they make you happy. If you truly don't want to be alone, accept invitations from people who will enjoy your company and not judge you or try to preach to you.
Celebrate your own mother if you had a good relationship with her. Let this day be a day you remember, recall, and celebrate your own mother or grandmother if you had a good relationship with her. This could involve anything from visiting church, strolling in the park, planting flowers, taking a drive to a special place, or sleeping late and giving yourself a mani-pedi. If your mother is still living and you can enjoy your time with her, plan a visit or phone call or Skpye connect time.
Gather friends and recreate the meaning of the day. Give yourself permission to get together with friends and do something totally unconnected to the meaning of Mother's Day. It can be a challenge to go out and have fun on Mother's Day when you are surrounded by seemingly happy families of moms, dads, and kids. See what's going on in your local area--check newspapers or local event websites-- and find something that will affirm your goodness and bring joy and happiness to the surface of your life. If you have no one to share the day with, your local public library or a nearby museum is a place you can visit on your own and still be in the presence of others. Stroll the galleries or read a stack of magazines or a good book. Spend a few hours enjoying yourself.
Because this is a blog about faith, I will add that if you have a faith tradition, see what it says to you on this day.
If you are feeling beaten down by the judgments of others, remember no one has the right to judge unless they know all of the facts. There is One Who Does. Do not leave this day without connecting with God in a special way.
Free yourself from the negative judgments of others and seek to live only under the judgment of God. Remember you are beloved of God not because of what you accomplish, but because you are a creation of God. You are a spiritual being who will live somewhere forever. Temporary judgments are not final rulings. Allow your challenge to become your triumph. You are never beyond the reach of God's love, and neither are your children. Be who you need to be in this time. Seek help and accept it when it is genuinely offered. Get enough rest. Find two or three things that bring joy to you and hold on to them. Finally, understand that others do what they do because of who they are. You can only change yourself. You cannot change others.
Have a happy day. Know that your mothering was not in vain, nor could it have been in vain. Keep the eternal viewpoint. Live well and be blessed.
(c) 2015 Deborah Evans
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