We all know there is a lot of “unhealthy religion” out there. And a lot of young adults walk away altogether from organized religion because of it. To a certain extent, that’s understandable. But it’s important to avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The key is to look for oases of “healthy religion” and when you do find one, spend enough time there to get refreshed and renewed for the journey ahead.
One such oasis for me are the beatitudes, sayings of Jesus, that give us hope and comfort. I encourage you to check them out in Matthew 5:1-11. One of them goes like this: “Blessed are the merciful, for theywill receive mercy.”
We’re far enough along into the semester now that we’re starting to get a little testy with one another, right?! Our tendency is to judge people, to separate ourselves from people who aren’t like us, who don’t share our values or our viewpoint, and we judge them by the world’s standards. The world defines us by what we do, how we behave, how we look, what we own.
But God loves us, just because we are children of God. The mercy and love that God shows us are not based on what we do but on who we are. God will always love us, period. The real question is whether we can love ourselves and others.
Jesus says, basically, “If you want mercy, give mercy.” It sounds easy, but it’s not. Not even for Jesus. If you don’t believe me, check out Matthew 15:22-28 in the Bible. It is hard work loving others, especially those who are different. It’s hard to listen to someone else’s story. It’s hard to “walk a mile in another man’s mocassins,” as the old Indian proverb goes. It’s hard because doing so will change our hearts, and most of us really don’t want to change.
But if you want to live the good life, don’t judge your success based on the world’s standards. Instead, spend your energy learning to love as Jesus loved. And practice being merciful at every opportunity.