One of my very favorite Jesus stories comes from Luke 18:
“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
In this story, Jesus tells us something about God. God, in response to the “sinner” – the one who is honest about his posture in the world – shows mercy. What does mercy look like? I think mercy looks like leaning in. Over and over again, the stories of scripture point to a God who is consistently leaning into God’s creation. And in our most honest, raw, real moments when we have come to the end of ourselves – the end of our control, power, self-reliance, wealth, health – we cry out to God for mercy. And God leans in. Jesus fully embodies this posture of mercy in his life and death – joining us in our pain and suffering.
Who, then, is God calling us to be? Those who also embody mercy. Those who lean into the pain and suffering of the world. Those who walk toward rather than look away. Those who listen first. Blessed are the merciful.