Friday, May 13, 2016

Mercy, Not Sacrifice.

I've been thinking about this quote from the bible in Matthew 9:13 a lot recently.

"Go and learn what this means 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."

Jesus was eating with tax collectors and the like, when the Pharisees began to question His disciples about it. Jesus tells them to think about this idea; mercy, not sacrifice. He wants them to know He is out to save the lost, not those who consider themselves righteous.

Jesus also recites this phrase again in Matthew 12:7, telling the Pharisees that yes, it was lawful to pick grain to eat on the Sabbath based on this same idea; mercy, not sacrifice.

This original phrase is found in Hosea 6:6 and says "For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings."

God was speaking to His people, telling them that their sacrifices were in vain if they did not turn their hearts back to Him. Jesus used this with the Pharisees to tell them God desired their hearts, not their attempts at living righteously.

The reason I have been thinking about these verses and this idea is because of how quick I am to name my own sacrifices. I give up free time, I exert my energy on home-cooked meals (mostly), I spend hours reading and researching about how to educate my children, then I actually spend bunches of hours teaching them not just math, but also social skills, every other subject, and about God. I give up mid-day coffee dates with friends and I have to bring my kids with me almost everywhere I go. I make a lot of sacrifices in the name of raising my children well, and this verse always left me feeling like I must be missing something. I feel like it's becoming more clear in my mind how I have been misunderstanding what kind of sacrifice God wants.

God doesn't want me to simply sacrifice everything for my family, He wants me to have mercy toward them, to have steadfast love be my guiding force. When I honestly evaluate my actions and intentions, they are not usually guided by steadfast love. I've never been one to claim perseverance as a quality I possess, either physically or mentally, but I see God working in me more and more to gain some ground in it. And being merciful to children day after day, really requires the perseverance only God can give.

To help explain it better, you can see mercy defined as:

- compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one's power.
- the disposition to be compassionate or forbearing.
- an act of kindness, compassion, or favor.

Having mercy toward children can sometimes feel like wussing out, or letting the kids win, but a deeper look has shown me that having mercy on someone is usually still sacrifice, just dressed in different clothing. For instance, when I am patient and speak kindly to a child who has disobeyed, I am giving up my desire to express anger. When I choose to kindly help a child who is frustrated, I am sacrificing my own frustration and energy. When I decide not to complain, I am giving up a selfish desire to have my troubles be known.

Is this sinking in? Can you see how it works out?

Mercy is not just letting a person get away with doing wrong, it's doling out kindness, deserved or not. It's not giving what the natural world gives, but offering something better. It's working toward restoration instead of only allowing consequences. Mercy is sacrificing what you think should happen, to let love reign.

The picture of Jesus giving us mercy instead of eternal death needs to be our example. I'm not saying my kids never suffer consequences, but I'm looking more deeply at my reactions and motivations, sorting out what is sacrifice in order to lift myself up (like the Pharisees) or mercy toward people who need Jesus too. Jesus didn't hold up His sacrifice toward others as His proof of love, He simply acted lovingly in everything He did.

This concept is changing how I homeschool, how I discipline, and how I think about the things I am willing or unwilling to sacrifice. If I am willing to give up a career at this stage of my kids' lives to better their futures, shouldn't I be willing to do so kindly? If not, something has been lost. It shows me how I have held up my sacrifice as proof of my desire to live righteously, but have not looked at what God actually wants from me.

Steadfast love. Mercy. Compassion.

These are what I need to be giving. I need to let go of frustration in order to give steadfast love. I have to give up anger if I want to dish out mercy. I must let go of my own standard of what my kids should be able to do in order to have compassion toward them. And trust me, it takes a lot of bravery and guts to swallow that pride in our sacrifice and admit we could stand to love better.

I hope this is helpful for all you weary moms, homeschoolers or not. You will feel a burden lifted when you let go of your sacrifices and hang on to God's mercy. It is truly endless. I know it might feel like defeat to set those burnt offerings down, but you have victory in Him. He'll give you countless days of blessing with your family when you decide to give them love, mercy, and compassion, instead of just sacrificing for them. And the best part, it's never too late to start!

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