The hymn — There’s A Wideness In God’s Mercy — says, “But we make his love to narrow.”
And we do.
At least, I do.
Time and time again, I find myself defaulting to finite mercy, limited love.
Yet, when I stood on the deck of that ship and spied the wideness for the very first time —I was overwhelmed by the vastness of the sea.
I kept peering through my camera lens trying to figure out how I could snap a photo of the widest possible image. My little point and shoot couldn’t handle it. My limited knowledge of using my cell phone’s panoramic camera produced no real wide views.
Every shot was limited.
There are two stories in Matthew — one in Matthew 9, one in Matthew 12.
In the first story, the Pharisees take Jesus and his disciples to task for eating with tax collectors and sinners. The righteous Pharisees would not allow themselves to associate with inappropriate people or become ritually unclean.
In the second story , Jesus was with his disciples, while walking through a field they snapped off heads of barley, popped them in their mouths. The Pharisees, always eager to find something wrong with what the Rabbi and his disciples were doing, quickly pointed out that they were not following the letter of the law. They were working. On the Sabbath.
In both instances, Jesus says you need to know what this means:
“I want mercy and not sacrifice.”
He was referring back to Hosea 6:6.
“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6 (NIV)
According to my Bible’s notes the Pharisees were “strict and zealous adherents to the laws of the Old Testament and to numerous additional traditions.”
They defaulted to strict adherence and compliance.
And, missed the point entirely.
Jesus was saying, default to mercy.
After all, that’s how Christ has treated me. Infinite mercy. Unlimited love. And, he loves everyone with the same intensity.
What if I change my default settings? What if we all do?
Instead of reacting in fear, condemnation, and judgment, I react first with love, mercy, and kindness?
What if I look at others through wide-open eyes and I see the wideness of God’s mercy reflected in them, just as it’s reflected in me?
What if I understood how completely and infinitely I am loved by the Savior, and know in my knower His love and grace are sufficient enough for me to love with lavish wideness?
And, I wonder what do I know of mercy?