I have had the privilege in my life to meet and minister to many homeless people. Whether it was eating cheeseburgers together on the street corner, or in Underground Atlanta, or chicken fingers under the I-10 bridge in Mobile, these people have left an indelible impression on my life.
Any time I have met a beggar or homeless person, the case has always been true in every situation. A beggar, by definition, is at the mercy of the one who shows mercy. The beggar has no rights of his own. It is absurd to think that the beggar is entitled to anything or has deserved rights to anything given to him. You see, what is given is simply that – a gift. And the gift is given freely as an act of mercy motived by compassion and love for that individual. They do not have to give, and quite frankly many don’t. But when they do, they do so out of their own choice. The merciful at all times is sovereign and in control and in no ways obligated or submitted to the will of the beggar or his presumed rights.
Such is the case of us in salvation. We are all beggars. We are all deaf, blind, mute, and lame. We come spiritually bankrupt, poor in spirit, and begging like the publican, “God, have mercy upon me, the sinner.” Any true conversion takes place with this disposition. God, who wondrously displays mercy towards the sinner, does so out of his free grace and unconditional love. God does not have to show us mercy. He is sovereign and chooses to do so out of His own good pleasure. And we are saved, not because we deserve salvation or are entitled to forgiveness, or have the rights or “free will” to make God save us! This is arrogance and an affront to the majesty of God. The grounds and means by which we are saved is the magnificent mercy of God (see Ephesians 2:4, Titus 3:5, and 1 Peter 1:3). No other grounds does salvation come. That is why God says,
“‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Romans 9:15-16).
Mercy is grounded in two things: God’s sovereignty and God’s love. And the two are not in contradiction, but rather are perspectival on the nature of God. And mercy received results in two things as well: the glory of God (Romans 15:9) and humble gratitude. To think that God has extended his love to me and shown me mercy is more than my frame can withstand.
I close this post with two thoughts. Remember the Good Samaritan? What was the context of that parable? Was it not ‘who is my neighbor’ (love your neighbor as yourself)? And who loved his neighbor? The answer was, “The one who has showed him mercy.” And Jesus’ response was, “You go and do likewise” (Luke 10). Well, I forgot what my second thought was. Anyway.
The point is: we are all beggars. We come to get, not to give. God is the giver, and He is sovereign and glorious in that giving. We are receivers, and we are to receive Him gladly, humbly, gratefully, as one truly undeserving, staggered by such mercy, mercy which makes me sing . . .
Thy mercy my God is the theme of my song
They joy of my heart and the boast of my tongue
Thy free grace alone from the first to the last
Hath won my affections and bound my soul fast
Without Thy sweet mercy I could not live here
Sin soon would reduce me to utter despair
But through Thy free goodness my spirits revive
And He that first made me still keeps me alive
Thy mercy is more than a match for my heart
Which wonders to feel its own hardness depart
Dissolved by Thy goodness I fall to the ground
And weep for the praise of the mercy I’ve found
Great father of mercies Thy goodness I own
And the covenant love of Thy crucified Son
All praise to the Spirit whose whisper divine
Seals mercy and pardon and righteousness mine
(Caedman’s Call Thy Mercy)