Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
As far back as the 1960s, I was a great fan of The Beach Boys and their music. It was—still is—great music. I know I’m not alone with this, as millions of people grew up with their amazing sounds and brilliant harmonies.
It was due to this that I went and saw the movie Love & Mercy, a great movie. A movie based on the life of Brian Wilson, songwriter and music producer of The Beach Boys. He is a brilliant musician, and yet had a troubled, strange and lonely life. The film looks at his life, music, his mental illness. It really is a most absorbing and interesting movie.
Brian Wilson wrote “Love and Mercy“ in 1988, a thoughtful song which Brian says, “is probably the most spiritual song I’ve ever written”. There was an extra verse that never got to the final edit:
I was praying to a god who just doesn’t seem to hear,
Oh, the blessings we need the most are what we all fear.
It seems his marriage to his wife Melinda—whom he met when buying a new car—was the best thing that happened to him, the love of his life. She helped him discover himself and be engaged in daily life once again. He used to say, “I want people to be covered in love, because there’s no guarantee—it goes away, like a bad dream”.
The Importance of Mercy
Love and mercy—two great words. We speak a lot about love. But not so much about mercy. What is mercy? We have a vague idea of what it is:
- a treatment of compassion
- a disposition of kindness and forgiveness
- a blessing, something we are thankful for
- an act of kindness, benevolence, forgiveness or compassion.
But I like this definition: To have mercy on others means to be kind to them or forgive them, even if they don’t deserve it. It’s not an easy thing to do, especially when you’ve had a run-in with someone. You feel angry and resentful.
An old man was walking on the beach early one morning. He bent down to pick up a starfish and threw it out into the ocean:
- A teenager came by and asked, Old man, what are you doing?
- These starfish will die of dehydration once the sun comes up high, he said. I’m throwing them back into the ocean so they will live.
- Ha! the young man spat sarcastically. The beach goes on for miles, and there are millions of starfish. What does it matter what you do?
- The old man looked at the starfish in his hand and then flipped it to safety in the waves. It matters to this one, he said.
Jesus, Our Model of Mercy
What you do for others does make a difference. Your acts of mercy matter. Are you a person of mercy? I want to say today that Jesus is our model of mercy. Whatever Jesus asks of us, he himself demonstrates.
People turned to him for mercy. Blind men, parents with demon-possessed children, lepers—all came pleading for mercy (Matthew 9:27, 15:22, 17:15; Luke 17:13). Why were they drawn to Jesus? Because he had a reputation for being merciful.
Jesus responded with compassion—whether it be the crowds who were “…harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36), individuals with terminal diseases (Mark 1:40-44), or a widow accompanying the body of her only son to the cemetery (Luke 7:13).
As with all The Beatitudes, Jesus lived the principles he taught—he taught mercy. A man was condemned when his own huge debt was forgiven, but he then refused to show mercy to another who owed him only a few cents (Matthew 18:21-35). The rich man who ignored the needs of the beggar Lazarus is condemned (Luke 16:19-31).
Those who show mercy by feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned—they are rewarded by the Lord (Matthew 25:31-46).
(To e continued in Love and Mercy – Part 2)