do you know what this is? itís the smallest violin in the world playing my heart bleeds for you.
have you heard that one?
pity is unpopular.
we donít want to give pity. we donít want to receive pity. ĎI donít want your charity.í we donít want others to think we pity them for fear they might be insulted.
self-pity. pity party
but pity is the word I want to use today to communicate the essential concept in our passage
ps 103.13 Ė As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear Him.
the NRSV and the NIV use the word Ďcompassioní. itís a good word. another way to translate it would be to Ďhave mercyí. but those words have been too stripped of their power. they donít produce the kind of revulsion in us that pity does. and thatís the idea. thatís what I want to get across to you.
(and, incidentally, thatís the idea I stole completely from Dallas Willardís book Ďthe Divine Conspiracyí. I canít recommend this book highly enough. if youíre looking for a book that will change your life as a disciple of Jesus, go out and get it. Dallas Willard gave me the idea that I want to convey to you which is found in our text todayÖ)
Our Father pities us.
we are pitiful. our condition is pitiful
like that of children. they have so many things that can get the best of them. they make so many mistakes. they are so slow to learn sometimes.
and we pity children. but itís insulting to us that we would be pitable like children
we donít like to admit it. we donít like to admit that so many things can get the best of us. we donít like to admit that we make mistakes repeatedly, and the same ones, too. we donít like to admit that we are slow to learn. we donít like to admit that we are seemingly impossible to correct sometimes.
we donít want salvation. we just want a break. itís like we say ĎGod, if Youíll just give me a break this time, Iíll straighten up and fly right. Iíll be a stand-up guy. Iíll be back on my feet for good. Iíll still be standiní in this massive war of attrition where the last one standing wins.í glutton for punishment.
wrong. we need more than a break. we mess up time and again. we canít live life the way weíre supposed to.
we need pity. so itís a good thing that Our Father pities us.
itís only pity and mercy that make life possible
pity is the only atmosphere that we can live in. itís the only air that we can breathe. everything else is noxious to us.
Godís offer of salvation to us is an offer motivated by pity. make no mistake about it. the plan is not to make us stronger. the plan is not to help us to lead happy, comfortable lives. no, the plan is to replace our lives, to give us new life. you think itís hard to live with a diseased heart? you think thatís a heart problem? youíre right. now try a heart of stone. now thatís a heart problem. the Bible says thatís what we have. and God wants to take out our hearts of stone and put in hearts of flesh.
when God offers us salvation, Heís saying ĎI will have pity on you.í. have you accepted Godís pity for you? have you accepted Godís salvation as pity? when you made the deal, did you know thatís what you were getting into? that God pities you? that you are pitiful in his eyes?
Our Father pities us.
have you accepted that offer? hereís a way to check. do you have pity for others? because the secret of our hearts is that they pump out what they take in. If youíve taken in Godís pity, you will pump it out to others. but if youíre pumping out anger and judgement to others, then itís clear you havenít fully taken in Godís pity and love.
this is one of the reasons Jesus taught us to pray Ďforgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.í. if we canít forgive others, it shows that we canít really accept forgiveness either. our hearts pump out what they take in.
this should not be an excuse for slack. and itís not as simplistic as Ďlet go and let Godí. what it means is that we do the things we can and count on God to do the things He has to. but we will still fall short on what we have to do and we need pity.
one great place to test out pity in your life is your family of origin, the family you were raised in. weíre in the middle of the holidays and weíre spending a lot of time with our families. our college students are back from school, and that can be tough. I remember one time when I came home from college and blew up about something my mom said Ďdo you like being here?í.
our families are the perfect place to test the status of pity in our lives. is your family a place where people try to love one another and have pity on one another when it doesnít work out? or do you fall into old established patterns of complaining and arguing and anger and fuming and withdrawal and hurt? is pity a real, live working dynamic in your family relationships?
Our Father pities us.
and thatís really Good News. living on the basis of pity makes it easier to ask and easier to give. people who are pitiless, unable to pity others and receive pity, simply have a hard life full of unsolvable problems
today we sometimes speak of people who cannot forgive themselves, usually however, the problem is much deeper. more often than not, these are people who refuse to live or resist living on the basis of pity. their problem is not that they are hard on themselves, but that they are proud. and if they are hard on themselves, it is because they are proud. they do not want to accept that they can only live on the basis of pity from others, that the good that comes to them is rarely Ďdeservedí. if they would only do that, it would transform their lives. they would easily stop punishing themselves for what they have done.
this idea about pity has made a big difference in my life.
Iíve stopped beating myself up. I allow myself to receive the pity I need. itís great. it simplifies things. itís a blow to my ego. I want to say ĎI shouldnít do those kinds of things.í. but the fact remains that I do. and Iím coming to grips with it.
hereís another application point: drive in the slow lane. give people a break/brake. pity them when they make mistakes.
it helps me to realize God loves me this way. God pities me. we know that God saves us, but we also know weíre not perfect. so itís pretty easy for us to think ĎGod loves me but he doesn't really like and that he is pretty much always deeply disappointed in me.í it has made a really big difference in my relationship with Him.
we are Godís children. he pities us. who doesnít pity a child? when a child trips and falls we say Ďpoor babyí. when a child dirties her diaper, we pity her. even when our child throws a defiant temper tantrum, we pity her. when children do these things, we donít scream Ďyou stupid idiot!í. we pity them. and God pities us. and we should pity ourselves, when we need it. and we should pity others.
Our Father pities us.
if our pride is untouched by pity, then we need to ask ourselves whether or not weíve really understood our pitiful condition. we need to ask ourselves whether or not weíve accepted forgiveness at the core level and are ready to dispense it to others.
without pity life is hopeless. with pity comes an atmosphere we can live and breathe in. to live in this atmosphere is to be able simply to drop the many personal issues that make human life miserable. giving up our pride and accepting and giving pity gives us an amazing, new clarity of mind. then we can work for the good things God wants to do with us.
Our Father pities us. can you take it? can you accept it?
if youíre spending more time with your family today and tomorrow and Christmas break, try accepting pity from God and giving it to your family. and if youíre making any resolutions, think about committing to opening your heart to pity and pumping it out to others. if isnít something youíve got down already, I promise you it will your life.