Several years ago, severe persecution against Christians broke out in Orissa (Odisha), a northern state of India. The Christians in one district were attacked, beaten, and driven away from their homes, and many were killed. The people doing this heinous act blocked off an entire district and would not allow anyone to enter or exit their district.
A video recorded on someone’s phone was circulated over the internet and I got a copy. I watched that video in total amazement of what human beings can do to each other. Houses were burned down, churches were ransacked and looted, women were attacked and violated, and people were driven from their homes. One particular incident caught my attention. There was a video of a man being severely beaten in the middle of the street by a group of people with sticks, clubs, and other crude weapons. The man was begging for mercy as the blows landed on all parts of his body. Two places in particular were focused on: the head and the knee. If the person survived, he may never by able to walk properly as a result of shattered knee caps.
Right at that point, a man was walking by on the side of the road. When he saw this man being attacked, he stopped walking and observed for a brief moment. Then he walked to the middle of the road and kicked this man several times in various parts of his body and walked away.
Out of that entire video, this one incident stood out to me as peculiar. A passer-by who may have had nothing to do with the event that took place suddenly made the decision to join others in the attack. Then he walked away as if nothing happened.
I realize the above example is a bit too extreme. But daily, we face choices of varying degrees. We deal with people every day who are suffering at some level with numerous issues. For each, we have three steps to take: Recognize the suffering, choose how we will respond, and take action.
Recognizing the sufferings of people may not be as obvious as the story above. The people may go through all the normal activities of life without being outwardly affected by their struggles. Their sufferings may not be outwardly visible, but they are just as real. For some, their struggles are outwardly manifested as various habits and dysfunctions. These habits may be utterly irritating and may isolate this person from others.
A conscious choice must be made to respond to the pain of others. Proverbs says “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it” (Proverbs 3:27 ESV). But we may fear their rejection, the response of others, or our inability to help that person. Some respond by attacking them and making them feel guilty. But you can choose mercy like Jesus did. He was merciful to the broken and hard on the hypocritical ones.
Finally, when you take action, you are acting as an agent of God’s kingdom here on the earth. You become as God’s hand reaching out just as Jesus did. Remember that mercy triumphs over judgment. So we respond with mercy and God responds with love and transformation in that person’s life.
When you notice someone suffering, what is your greatest hindrance to responding with mercy?
Share it in the comments.
Photo by rajkumar1220 Creative Commons