On the Side of Mercy

6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands,[a] forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.” Exodus 34:6-7

Ah, mercy. My phone dings at 5:15 am. A habit honed by long years of emergency calls from hospitals makes me reach for the phone and check my email. I switch on the light and read the message from Nehynalit, one of the international high school students I teach. "I have many tasks due today," she writes, "and no one to help me. Will you help me?"

Phone Mobile/ Ringing | Clipart Panda - Free Clipart Images Four years of teaching English as a second language has taught me that students feel much more supported if I respond to a written request in their home language. "Por supusesto," I respond. "Nos vemos en mi habitacion a las 8:00." I push "send" and settle back into my pillow for another hour, thinking about Nehynalit and my other ESL students. Many of them are still working their jobs at bodegas or construction sites to help with the family finances. Others are watching little brothers or sisters while their parents work. But I have no doubt that Nehynalit, who came to the United States with her mother and her sister from Venezuela three years ago, will meet me in my room at 8:00.

At 7:15, tea mug in hand, I log into my school email and send a message to Nehynalit's teachers: Will they accept late assignments? Almost immediately, I get responses back. The one from Sr. Ave Armstrong, who teaches English Language Arts, gives me pause. "These are hard times," she says, "and we must err on the side of mercy."

Mercy. There is an idea there, a memory from a Bible story, but I put it aside while I read back over Nehynalit's earlier email listing the "tasks" she needs to complete. She means assignments, of course, but the English and Spanish words are cognates, similar enough. At 8:00, I log into my Zoom room online and hear the "ding" of Nehynalit's arrival. We talk for a few moments about the assignments that are due, set priorities, and spend some time looking up a current event--which she needs translated--and reading a scene from a novel. When the hour is up, she's completed several of her "tasks" and I promise I will continue to check in with her during the day as I work with other students.

Like many other teachers, I am now seeing my students in a virtual classroom, trying to help them creep towards the end of the academic year as the entire world battles against the pandemic produced by COVID-19. My first question to my students--always--is "Estas bien? Esta bien tu familia?" Only after I know that these students--my kids--are alright do we begin an assignment.

Exodus 34:6-7 - What is God Like? - Wellspring Christian MinistriesBecause it is, as Sr Ave so aptly said, a time for mercy.

Exodus 34:6-7 extols the merciful aspects of God. The entire chapter is an example of God's exceeding mercy to us. The first time Moses went to the mountain to talk to God, the Israelite became anxious and  went to Aaron, who "took what they handed him and fashioned it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf" (Exodus 32:4). Despite the blatant disobedience of the people, the Lord was willing to meet with Moses again, renew the covenant with Israel, and reveal His attributes. 

And wonderful and merciful attributes they are. In just two verses, God tells us that He is merciful to us both before and after we sin, extending His power over all of nature and humankind. He has compassion for our human frailty and gives us the mercy we do not deserve. He is slow to anger, giving us ample time to repent, and abundant in His kindness towards us. He is always truthful and recalls the deeds of the righteous. He forgives our sins, our willful ways, and our errors. He cleanses us, making us whole again.

GP: Coronavirus Environment: Clear skies in Los Angeles. amid Coronavirus Outbreak
I think back to the morning news cast. Along with depressing statistics about the virus and the death toll, the economic down turn and another recession, are some upbeat stories. It seems that in the seven weeks since most of us began self-isolating, 80% of the greenhouse gases have lifted. Los Angeles, once the foggiest and smoggiest of cities, now has superior air quality. And the canals in Venice are crystal clear for the first time in hundreds of years.

I believe it is because of mercy. God's mercy. Yes, the virus is devastating. But in the past few weeks, there have been miracles. People have recovered. Families have been spending more time together. People are working less hours. We may have less money, but we aren't spending as much anymore. We may miss seeing one another face to face, but we are finding ways to engage in a virtual world.

By 9:00, all of Nehynalit's teachers have echoed the words of Sr. Ave; yes, they will accept late assignments. In the most confusing and difficult times, they are willing to extend a little mercy. As I work with Nehynalit and other students who have no one at home to help them with assignments written in English, I recall again and again the need to "err on the side of mercy."

8 Best Mercy Bible Verses - Encouraging ScriptureIt feels awful right now and hard to accept what JRR Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings, said: "What punishments of God are not gifts? All. All is grace. All is mercy." Maybe this is a test for us, a chance to return to God. Maybe God's mercy is giving us time to rest, to restore, to cleanse ourselves. Maybe, as the God of all nature and humankind, this is not punishment, but compassion. After all, "All things work together for good for those who love God" (Romans 8:28.) It's not a Disneyland sort of promise. Even the hard things, the difficult things, the tragic things are gifts.

By noon, Nehynalit has submitted the last assignment and I take a moment to send her a quick message of encouragement before I log onto my next group of students. "Estas bien?" I ask them. "How are you?" We work our way through chemistry, and social studies, and physics assignments--none of which I am really qualified to teach--and end each session with ," Mantente bien y seguro." Be well. Be safe.

It should be quite obvious by now that none of us can get through this alone. Just as my students need me to help them get through the rest of the academic year, we not only need each other to survive this pandemic, we need God. We were warned that we would face adversities (2 Cor. 1:8). But we were also given the tools to overcome them. We cannot overcome the fallen and fickle world alone. We cannot address what is even greater than our need for food, clothing, and shelter. Our greatest burdens are carried within our souls. And we have been given the answer: “Our help is in the name of the LORD, / the maker of heaven and earth” (Ps 124:8).

God is showing us His compassion. Let's all err on the side of mercy.

The Mercy of the Lord | Daily Devotional by Charles Spurgeon

No Comments