Mercy is defined as a “blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion.”
I love that Merriam-Webster acknowledges that the act of mercy is divine, proceeding directly from God. Our ability as mere humans to show mercy to one another comes from a place of genuine understanding of the mercy we have received from the Most High. As the body of Christ, we should seek to show mercy to those the world has systematically and repeatedly isolated.
“WHEN I RETURN.”
These three words shifted the entire narrative of the Good Samaritan story for me. Most of us are familiar with this story as it reminds us to love our neighbors, show mercy, and ignore social and racial barriers in order to care for someone in need. All of these are phenomenal lessons to glean from this text; however, I would love to offer a bit of a new perspective to you.
Picking up in the middle of the story, we see the Samaritan go to the man, bandage his wounds, place him on his own donkey, and take him to an inn to continue caring for him.
The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expenses you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10: 33-37)
This parable’s message about relationships is quite profound and compelling to me as a follower of Jesus Christ. At this moment in time, my life is dedicated to changing the story of disability by encouraging the church to value the inclusion of all people, regardless of their ability. In particular, I facilitate opportunities for typically developing adults to pursue a meaningful friendship with an adult experiencing disability through 99 Balloons’ ministry model, bEfriend.
It is a privilege and honor to do this work.
While the above parable does not speak directly to disability, it does speak to how we should show mercy to one another, advocate on behalf of those in need, and pursue a relationship with those considered to be marginalized.
Do you have a friend with a differing ability?
I am not asking this question to shame you or make you feel bad about yourself. Just a simple question. Just something to think about.
Did you know that the majority of relationships for adults experiencing disability typically include a family member or someone who is paid to be with them?
Yes, folks, that is the truth. In knowing this truth, I long to see the church change this narrative by entering into relationships with adults experiencing disability. Befriending someone who is different from you is hard, takes effort and sacrifice, as well as a willingness to stumble a bit through the unknowns of that relationship. Also, it is one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed.
To me, it sounds a bit like the Good Samaritan. He made the effort that those before him did not. He crossed the road. He ignored society’s boundaries. He showed mercy and compassion to a man the religious previously ignored. He was generous with his time and money. He promised to return.
I told you that the words “when I return” shifted my perspective on this passage. In friendship, you go back. You return. This isn’t a one-time, put a band-aid on it, pat yourself on the back kind of love. I believe Christ calls us to enter into the hard, messy, and unfamiliar, to commune with the unlikely, to engage the marginalized in relationship, and to return time and again to do it all over again. I believe this is how change happens, and I believe this is how God intended for us to live – full of compassion, mercy, and willingness to love each and every person made in His image.
“In the end, the most important thing is not to do things for people who are poor and in distress, but to enter into relationship with them, to be with them and help them find confidence in themselves and discover their own gifts.” — Jean Vanier
May we return, just as the Good Samaritan did. May we spend our time here on Earth as Christ did, with those the world did not welcome. May we show divine mercy and compassion to one another. May we fervently pray that people from every tongue, tribe, nation, and ability will be represented, welcomed, and ushered into the community of the local church.
Go and do likewise.
Rebecca is a Texas native who has found herself back in her college town of Fayetteville, Arkansas. After years of teaching elementary school, the Lord called her into full-time disability ministry. Rebecca is the Programs Director for 99 Balloons, a non-profit ministry out of Fayetteville, where she seeks to educate, equip, and train churches on 99 Balloons’ ministry models for respite, teens, and adults. She desires to see the church embrace, include, and celebrate each and every person made in the image of Christ.