Mercy (Middle English, from Anglo-French merci, from Medieval Latin merced-, merces, from Latin, “price paid, wages”, from merc-, merxi “merchandise”) is a broad term that refers to benevolence, forgiveness and kindness in a variety of ethical, religious, social and legal contexts.
Wikipedia –

I saw on the news today stories about how Filipinos have an annual gore fest during Holy Week. The pictures are gruesome. I read the article and rushed past the images.

They walk through the streets, whipping themselves bloody or tied to sharp wooden stakes that jab into their armpits, keeping their arms straight out. They finally make it to a place where more still are literally crucified. And I’m not talking about doing it for show, where they get tied to a cross for a spell. No, these bad boys literally get nailed to crosses and hang around for a good while. They don’t die, but the nails and blood are all too real.

Why? Well, they want to make themselves worthy. Or maybe just to prove their devotion. Some reportedly think their lives will improve if they show a willingness to suffer like Christ did.

“Hey, God! Down here! Look at me! I’m doing what Jesus did…kind of. Help me get a better job. Please forgive me for being such a (blank).” Etc., etc.

Here’s the deal, and there’s no getting away from it. The Bible is pretty clear that Jesus did the whole thing. He left nothing for us to clean up. No loose ends.

“For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.” Romans 6:10

That’s it. Done. Finito (sp?). No more to do. Of course, if you’re of German descent like I am, you believe in that ol’ pull-your-own-self-up-by-the-bootstraps thing. Then again, Germans don’t have a corner on that market. If you read the epistles of St. Paul, his letters often preached against what would become known as the Gnostic movement. People started thinking that they the key to heaven was – to put it simply – “Knowin’ Stuff.” If you had plumbed the depths of knowledge and had uncovered the cosmic mysteries, you’re golden.

“Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” 1 Corinthians 1:25

And I think that about covers human wisdom.

Early church histories describe how, during persecutions in Rome, Christians were tapped for an evening at the Coliseum, sharing top billing with the lions, etc. They didn’t speak of martyrdom. They called it being “Fulfilled.” They didn’t volunteer, mind you. But they went and did not deny Christ. Those who did chicken out were snubbed by their churches. There were heated disagreements over whether or not someone who later repented of their lapse should EVER be accepted again.

As if there is no forgiveness, won by Jesus’ heroic sacrifice.

“[ The Unpardonable Sin ] “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men.” Matthew 12:31

Even forsaking Christ is forgivable. Just ask Peter. Jesus’ death and resurrection has that covered too. I wonder what Peter would answer if asked what the toughest thing he had had to do was. I think it might well be accepting Jesus’ forgiveness after denying Him.

So these Filipinos I started with – What does all of their suffering get them? Scabs. Scars. News stories. I think that about covers it. While I applaud their fervor, I think they could better direct their efforts. Give someone a drink. Visit someone in the hospital or prison. Give someone a coat.

“And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” Matthew 25:40

THAT’s the devotion God is looking for. Continue the mercy and healing that Jesus made a career, an eternity, out of. He had mercy on us first, so we could share that mercy with all we meet. Caring for widows and orphans.

As for those Filipinos who the articles say do it in supplication for a better life… You’re going to bribe God with “If I bleed during a Holy Week parade, will you give me (blank)?” We’re talking about the same God here, right? The Guy who made, well, everything…including us? That’s like taking money out of someone else’s wallet and then offering it to them in return for something. WE HAVE NOTHING! Everything we seem to have is a gift from God.

It’s about mercy. Go back to the top real quick and re-read the Wikipedia entry on mercy. Really. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Done? OK. “price paid, wages.” Jesus paid the price, gave the devil his due, his portion of death, the wages of sin. He gives us His mercy, his payment. That’s it. Ridiculously simple. And yet so horribly hard to take, right?

If this blog entry seems a bit harsh, well I’m slapping myself around a bit too. I’m not going to whip myself bloody, but I often do the equivalent in my mind. Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to be nice to others and how hard it is to accept kindness? Especially when we don’t deserve it?

We – you and I – have to get it through our heads that it really is that simple. No self-deprecation, flagellation, crucifixion. Just say, “Thank you.” And be nice like you were treated.

What do you think? Do you struggle with saying “Thank you?” What’s your story? I and other readers want to hear from you!

Your ideas are important too!

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