Early this year, the Invisible Children group launched a campaign called KONY 2012. In case you spent a few months stranded on some LOST-esque island cut off from all media, this took place through a video overview of the deeds of Joseph Kony and the LRA. The purpose of this video was to capture the attention of various celebrities and policy-makers in order to get people motivated to help their cause. They hoped to get 500,000 hits by the end of the year. Instead, they got over 100 MILLION…by the end of the week.
I think in a big way, their success has to do with the fact that we’re living in a culture that takes pride in the mercy and compassion we have for others. That’s why companies like TOMS shoes who donate 1 for 1 succeed. That’s why shows like an American Hour turn what could be a one hour competition into two hours of singing and individual back-stories of struggle, hardship, and occasional triumph. That’s why KONY 2012, a 30 minute video in a world of 2 minute attention spans, became the most viral video of all time. Our society cares.
What about you? Do you see mercy as a gift you excel in? Are you genuinely concerned for the welfare of those around you? Are you drawn to others’ stories or filled with a desire to make sure everyone feels loved and appreciated? If so – great! The more people that care about the welfare of others, the better.
But…that’s right, there’s a but. Two, actually. On the surface mercy is a wonderful thing, but there are a few things we need to consider while we’re going around caring about others.
First of all, are you being lazy? It’s incredibly easy , and common, to do. We see someone’s plight, have huge amounts of empathy, might even shed a few tears, and then we…do nothing. In a discussion of faith vs. works, James brings up the analogy of seeing someone in need and doing nothing. In his words, “What good is it?” (James 2:14-16)
When Bethany Haley met and heard the tragic stories of the children of central Africa, her heart was broken for them. But she didn’t stop there; she went on to co-found eXile International and has helped bring a countless amount of healing since.
In your own life, you’re in a unique situation to help others. Maybe your role is to share their story to someone who can help in a more practical way. Maybe it’s something you can do on your own. Or maybe someone just really needs to be heard, listened to, and shown the love of God. No matter what, make sure you’re doing and not just settling for feelings of sympathy.
The second thing to remember is that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. When Jesus saw people in need, He had mercy on them. But He never let their physical ailments take precedence over their spiritual ones. When a crippled man was brought to Jesus, He healed him physically but also forgave his sins (Luke 5:18-25). When He healed an invalid at the pool of Bethesda, He used that as an opportunity to teach everyone in earshot about His purpose and the authority given to Him from His Father (John 5).
Jesus ask us, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36) Along a similar line, what does it profit a man if we give them a meal or help them find shelter but never mention Jesus to them? Can we really claim to have shown Christian love and mercy to them?
If mercy isn’t your strength, if you’re more a “rub some dirt in it and quit whining” type of person, then I encourage you to take time to listen to others and work on loving them like God loves you (John 13:34). Take the time to really hear before making judgments. And if you feel you’re already to that point, then do something about it. Work isn’t intended only for those service-gifted people and you should never let actionless pity take the place of real compassion and bringing someone closer to the only One who can offer true mercy.