“Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13, ESV. See also Matthew 12:7 and Hosea 6:6.)

Are you a burnt offering? If you've been in a situation where you were denied mercy, odds are you were sacrificed.

For example, you and a good friend find yourselves in disagreement over an emotionally charged issue. You're willing to mercifully agree to disagree, but your friend isn't. Instead, they choose to sacrifice your friendship and turn their back on you in the name of some "principle." As a result, a wonderful friendship is left in ashes.

Or what about marriage? Instead of extending daily mercy, one spouse allows petty annoyances to build and chooses to sacrifice the marriage and walk away. Maybe one spouse has genuinely committed an egregious sin. Does that give the offended spouse the "right" to refuse reconciliation? In too many instances, it is merely adding sin upon sin.

Just being human in a sinful world all but guarantees that at some time or another, we will each be burnt and sacrificed by the denial of mercy. Conversely, we've also most likely done our share of sacrificing.

We each maintain idolatrous altars of self that we build from impure motives, selfish desires, and rights demanded. We easily toss others on these altars and douse them with the accelerants of our wounded pride, damaged pasts, politics, lust for power, and more. Then we strike the match of anger and, Poof! another relationship or situation goes up in flames.

We stand by smugly, warming ourselves in the glow of someone else's pain, and go gathering more logs of self-justification and rationalization to toss on. There are even times when the flames of our sacrifices never stop burning.

Is this what the Christian life is supposed to be about? Not hardly!

We are called to extend to others, whether we want to or not, the same mercy and grace God has shown to us (Luke 6:36-38). In fact, we are called to pull others out of the fire (Jude 1:22-23).

What happens to us when we refuse mercy? God will do the same thing to us (James 2:12-13). The merciful are shown mercy (Matthew 5:7) and the unmerciful will be sacrificed.

God would have us tear down these altars, put aside our rights, and bear in mind how heavy the weight of our own sinfulness would be without the benefit His infinite mercy and grace. The best and right response is always, to "Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8).

Let's remember the infinite mercy we have received and lay down our matches.

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