Continually Giving What We Continually Need: Mercifulness
Two monks and a geisha
In ancient Japan, a Buddhist monk and his novice charge were traveling back to the monastery on horseback. A brief heavy shower turned the road into a muddy mess. Approaching a town, they saw a geisha in her immaculate silk robes in apparent distress about crossing the road. At that time, geishas were prostitutes, and monks avoided all contact with anyone of their profession.
The novice was shocked when the older monk reined his horse to a halt, stepped down, walked over to the young woman, and carried her across the mud on his back to the grass on the other side. Then, his task finished, he remounted and resumed the journey. The novice fumed for the rest of the trip, appalled by the senior monk’s actions.
The older man noticed the youth’s displeasure as they were unsaddling their horses in the monastery stable. He asked him what it was that distressed him, so “I am astonished that you, a holy man, carried that woman upon your back!” protested the novice.
“I set her down many hours ago,” said the monk, “it seems that you are the one who is carrying her still.”
Why do I use an illustration from Buddhist teachings to begin a study of Jesus’ fifth beatitude? Because mercy is universally seen as a good thing. All humans were created in God’s image, and many appreciate it when they see kindness and compassion. A person does not need to be religious to recognize the importance of forgiveness and refraining from carrying around resentment. People who will not let go of the wrongs done to them become bitter, obsessive, depressed, and suspicious of everyone. It is understandable when someone who has been mistreated is upset with the one(s) who wronged them. However, if that person continues to ruminate over the injustice or stores up memories of all the injuries suffered, then anger at being wronged becomes emotionally and spiritually damaging.
The grudge society
In Jewish culture in the first century, mercy was experienced primarily within the family. It was seen as a duty (even today, the same practice remains in the many Mediterranean, Near, Middle, and Far Eastern cultures). However, this attitude did not extend outside of the family. Forgiveness was for those related by blood or marriage, but it was not for others – especially not for those who had wronged anyone in one’s family.
In Jesus’ day, each public encounter between individuals was a subtle competition. Interactions in the marketplace often consisted of word battles, attempts to best others by showing greater wit and cleverness, and working conversations to trap others with their own words. The goal was to embarrass one’s opponent, causing him to lose face. This was typically done with great outward politeness (though the underlying motives were anything but polite) and only with those of the same social level.
Animosity could escalate into long-running feuds in which hatred for another family was passed down from generation to generation like some grotesque (but still treasured) heirloom. Shakespeare recounted such a culture in Romeo and Juliet where even the servants joined into the quarrel between the Capulets and Montagues. Sociologists call this a challenge/riposte or agonistic society.
Into this combative society came Jesus, teaching a much different way. Mercy was to be shown to everyone, and retaliation and seeking superiority were viewed as unacceptable in every circumstance. This does not mean that Jesus’ teachings were entirely new concepts, for the Law of Moses had taught the same principles. God’s chosen people were to treat foreigners with respect (Exodus 22:21), and retaliation was something that belonged to God (Deuteronomy 32:35). So it was not out of a lack of teaching that the people in Jesus’ day continued to spar with one another – they had simply ignored what God had clearly told them. Their cultural rules and traditional ways of thinking and behaving were more important and influential than God’s desires (not unlike today).
Mercy and mourning
Mercy has a solid connection to mournfulness – in fact, without a mournful attitude, mercy, as Jesus taught it, is impossible. The Rabbi did not say, “Blessed are the angry, the retaliatory, the condemning” – in the rest of the sermon that follows, he teaches that those attitudes and actions are simply not acceptable in his apprentices. Mournful disciples are saddened by the world’s condition and how they have played in the badness that characterizes life on earth. We spiritually pollute this world, and even when we stop what we are doing, we still bear responsibility for the damage we’ve already done in the past. It is easy to be accustomed to sin, but that does not change its destructiveness.
Mercifulness has as its foundation a deep sorrow for our rebellion against God, our selfishness, the damage we have done to ourselves and others, and extreme sadness for the lostness of this world. Because of this view, we submit to God’s way and become passionate about goodness and rightness. That leads us naturally to good actions and a mindset (and heart-set) that looks at the suffering and the lost people with compassion and understanding. We become like the good shepherd who was so tired and in need of rest and yet: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:26).
It is God who shows us what mercy truly is and that mercy is founded on love. One of the words used in the Hebrew to describe mercy is chesed, which is translated “loving-kindness” in the King James Version and “steadfast love” in the Revised Standard Version. It is used about 250 times in the Hebrew Scriptures. It is the word used in Jeremiah 9:24 – one of the three values that God exercises and in which he delights along with justice and righteousness.
In the New Testament, the Greek word eleos is used and speaks of the demonstration of pity. The one who receives mercy has a need that is beyond their ability to fill. The one who shows mercy has the resources to partially or fully fill the needs of the one who is pitied. Now, notice how the promise to those who hunger and thirst after righteousness – “for they shall be filled” ties into “Blessed are the merciful.” We are empty, and God fills us. We show mercy; God through us fills others.
Here is a picture that may help illustrate that. Imagine a gentle waterfall, and there are clay pots that catch the water that flows off a rocky ledge. Another row of earthenware is on a lower shelf of stone, and the filled pots overflow to fill the next row. We are empty, and God fills us. He shows mercy to empty vessels, and we do the same. It is God’s graciousness that fills us and God’s graciousness that fills others through us. Mercy continuously flows into our lives, giving us the resources of loving-kindness to flow into other’s lives.
This showing of mercy is participation with God. It is also how we escape the corruption of this world (“so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” – 2 Peter 1:4). If God’s graciousness is always and exclusively pouring into us, then there is no room for the world’s influences.
Let’s take this metaphor another step. Pots can have lids that keep the waterfall from flowing into them. God’s mercy is for everyone, but most are uninterested. Also, containers can become filled and then sealed off with lids. We can be willing to accept God’s mercy but not let it flow to others, resulting in nothing fresh and vibrant within us – we become stale, mildew-filled mini-cisterns (though they are only millimeters away from living water). God wants us to be open earthenware jars that are overflowing. We receive mercy, and it flows through us to others. We overflow into both open and tightly sealed containers, hoping the latter will one day open up to God’s gracious love.
Jesus taught the disciples to show love as God shows love.
You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
God pours out his loving-kindness generously upon all people whether or not they acknowledge and appreciate him. We are to do the same with that which he gives us. In Matthew 10:8, Jesus told his disciples concerning miraculous powers, “Freely you have received, freely give.” Can you see any reason that his command would not apply to anything he has graciously given us? Could it not be that the seemingly problematic last verse of Matthew 5 – “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” – is explained by this? It is the identical perfect loving-kindness that pours into us, that pours out of us.
Pure water flowing into containers illustrates one aspect of mercy. In 2 Corinthians, Paul compares our bodies to earthenware pots. Yet, it is not only mercy that flows into us but all aspects of the life of God:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.
2 Corinthians 4:7-11
2 Corinthians is a letter that speaks of spirituality to a group of Christians who, for the most part, were much more attached to the temporal. In verse 18 of the above chapter, Paul tells them: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” They were more than their clay jars. That which mattered was the invisible and eternal. The world can’t see the real us except through the transformed lives we live here on earth. In 2 Corinthians 3:18, just a few verses before the above passage, it says that as we behold or reflect the Lord’s glory, we “are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” It is not God’s first and foremost goal to forgive us (that is only part of the process). He desires to transform us into perplexingly good people living astonishingly good lives. If we stay close, if we go to the Lord as Moses did and found his face glowing (2 Corinthians 3:7) – then in Christ, we find that we are not simply changed outwardly as Moses was, but that we are progressively transformed to be like Christ. The life of Christ is within us, and we show mercy because of who we are becoming. Forgiveness is merely the beginning; the good news is the transformation from earthbound folks into spiritual people. Jesus’ life is revealed in these mortal bodies (2 Corinthians 4:11).
Second-rate substitutes for mercy
So, the person who comes to the 5th beatitude and thinks, “I need to have a service project in which I show loving-kindness to the needy, so I can be merciful and get the promise of mercy” is missing the whole point of Jesus’ teaching. The Rabbi is describing the relationship and the spiritual change that naturally occurs when we stay under the flow, beholding, reflecting, participating with, hanging close to, following, sitting at the feet of, living in the household, integrating with the spiritual body, and becoming a best friend of God.
Any actions or false motives that take the focus off the source of loving-kindness to elevate the vessels being shown mercy is not the mercy of which Jesus desires. Doing good things for the wrong reasons may improve other lives, but it will do nothing for the spiritual life of the doer. Jesus, in the first verses of Matthew 6, could not have made this clearer:
Be careful not to do your “acts of righteousness” before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Isn’t that an interesting phrase: “Be careful not to do…”? Caution as to our motives is necessary in the kingdom of heaven. Jews today use the word “mitzvah” to describe a good deed, ideally done in secret. You drop off groceries to a poor widow, knock on the door, and run, so she won’t know who delivered them. You send some money anonymously to a person in need. In addition, you tell no one that you performed that caring action. No praise is expected or received. Ulterior motives are eliminated.
Jesus was teaching this principle. We are to do good for others, not to impress people but to please our Father. If we love, are devoted to and rely upon the invisible God who sustains this world and holds us together (Colossians 1:17: Hebrews 1:3), and his Son, then whenever we give time, money, assistance, forgiveness, or show patience, it will be with the realization that we are simply passing on what we have been given. There is no call for a drum roll and “Ta-da!”
There may be occasions when talking about what we have done to help someone is necessary, but in light of the above passage, it will likely be much rarer than practiced in churches. People “testify” to the greatness of God working in their lives, and churches “spotlight” the examples of the generous in their community to encourage others to follow their lead, but this is something that needs to be reconsidered. Jesus taught quietness concerning showing mercy to others, both through his words and example.
As Jesus told his disciples, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy,” his focus was on being lovingly kind, not merely behaving in gracious ways. Doing right is pretty simple, as is saying the right thing – there are specific steps to it. Those processes can even be programmed into a robotic device, which can then go through the proper actions and reproduce the right words with the appropriate intonations. The receiver of this programmed “mercy” (whether given by a human being or a machine) will even benefit from what had been said and done for them.
As an example: in 1964, Joseph Weizenbaum at M.I.T. wrote a simple program named ELIZA. It was designed to take keywords from typed input from office staff members in his department of the university and reply in a reflective paraphrase. For example, the program might begin with the phrase, “How are you today?” If the response was, “I’m feeling discouraged,” the program might answer. “I’m sorry you’re discouraged. What is it that discourages you?” People opened up to the program believing it was a real person responding to their problems. They were angry when they discovered it was a program, and Professor Weizenbaum possessed all their responses. He was surprised that anyone had taken ELIZA seriously.
Imitating sincerity, care, and forgiveness is not what Jesus is seeking from us. We receive no spiritual benefit unless mercy pours spontaneously from our heart and spirit. God, who made us, knows how we can become merciful people. Simple mercy forms in us when we follow his Son’s example, and our motivation is on pleasing him instead of impressing the world with our mercifulness.
For the perfectionists who might be reading this, there is one more point. When some look at Matthew 6:1-4, there is a tendency to despair – “I’ll never receive any reward from God because I think I play to the crowd at times; I care too much what people think.” That is wonderful that you have such a tender conscience that desires so much to be what God wants you to be, but there are no 100% pure motives in people. We may do “good” selflessly, but we can be sure that somewhere in our little minds, there is a bit of us wondering how this act of kindness can be turned to personal advantage. Until we receive our resurrected bodies, we will always need to be cautious about our flesh and its motives. Let God’s merciful loving-kindness flow through you – that is sufficient.
Never forget, no matter how many years you live and mature as a Christian, that growth in Christ is a transformation process. God is merciful to us, and he realizes our limits. But he also knows our potential. We can learn from those struggles between our noble and base motives. This will result in greater compassion and patience with others who struggle. When we encounter another person wrestling with mixed motives, we can encourage them by speaking of our own inner conflicts and how God’s mercy reduces the battle over time.
Mercy means forgiving others
Mercy does not equal forgiveness, but forgiveness is an essential aspect of mercy. To be merciful, we most certainly must forgive people as we have been forgiven (Matthew 6:12). That is just. To willingly receive the Creator’s mercy without a willingness to give it to others is the worst sort of ingratitude and unfairness. No matter how much people have wronged us, it cannot come close to how each one of us has wronged God.
Jesus gave humankind an idea of how it looks to God when we refuse to forgive our fellow humans (Matthew 18:21-34). Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful servant was prompted by Peter’s question, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother? Up to seven times?” Peter probably saw this as very generous, but Jesus replied to him, “I tell you, not seven, but seventy-seven times (or “seventy times seven”). Even in these words, Jesus was not limiting the number of times we forgive a person to seventy-seven or four hundred and ninety times.
The parable spoke of a man who was in debt to the king to the tune of 10,000 talents. A talent is 70 pounds of gold or silver, so the man owed about 350 tons of precious metal. Seventy talents was the amount of precious metal that Haman willingly paid the Persian King, Xerxes, for the destruction of the Jews, as recounted in the book of Esther (this is money exchanged among princes, not ordinary men and women). The man was in such debt that it was impossible for him ever to pay it back, but the day of reckoning had arrived.
The debtor begged for mercy, and the compassionate king amazingly wiped the colossal debt off the books. Then this very same man, newly freed from an obligation that most nations could not pay back, hunted down another person who owed him about 13 ounces of silver and demanded immediate payment. The plea of this minor debtor was almost identical to that of the forgiven man who was now demanding repayment. The forgiven servant threw his colleague into debtor’s prison, apparently oblivious to the ironic, hypocritical injustice of his actions.
The other servants were shocked, and the king was appalled when he learned of his servant’s ruthlessness. “You wicked servant,” he said, “I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy upon your fellow servant just as I had on you?” The man who had been debt-free was now obligated to pay the loan in full. He was thrown into prison until he could pay back all he had owed, which would be “never.” Jesus concluded his story with this postscript, “This is how my Heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” God is more than willing to forgive us whatever we have done. If we refuse to give to others what we have accepted from him, the offer is withdrawn.
Merciful from the heart
God’s mercy was tremendously costly to him. For us, there may be times when giving mercy will come at a great price. However, as we follow Jesus, becoming increasingly like him, mercifulness will become a natural part of our character. Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:34, “unless you forgive your brother from your heart,” does make mercy a good deal more demanding than merely forgiving or showing patience toward another. God is all about hearts. If evil is in our hearts, the core of us is evil. If we give him our hearts, all the rest of us follows. In 2 Thessalonians 3:5, Paul says, “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” The heart of an individual sets the direction of their life. Mercy is deep, actual forgiveness, not a going-through-the-motions or act-as-if sort. This is true of all aspects of loving-kindness. Mercy that comes from the heart is a necessity. If mercy does not fill the heart, unforgiveness, resentment, and impatience hidden there will eventually make their way to the surface.
Most people have played with a beach ball in the water. It is a very unsubstantial toy out in the air, but the flimsy ball becomes very powerful if you try to push it underwater and sit on it. Despite one’s best efforts, eventually, the beach ball will make its escape. Resentments and beach balls must be cousins – out in the open, they are pretty easy to deal with; force them under the surface, and you have an ongoing battle.
Forgiving from the heart simplifies our lives considerably, but many people become very attached to their resentments. When I was a teenager, I remember a cartoon in Mad Magazine that had the caption “Holding a Grudge:” a man was grimacing as he clutched this large hedgehog-type creature to his chest. I think that there have to be better pets than a grudge. The resentful, impatient heart is a miserable place. Still, just like the hoarder who fills their house with all sorts of unnecessary junk, the unmerciful person holds on to the useless hurts and suspicions from the past. It makes sense to that individual, or they would not cling so stubbornly to the wrongs of the past. Some of the justifications are:
- We desire to keep ourselves safe: we think that holding onto a thread of the wrong is like tying a string around the finger to remind us to be careful.
- We want to store up some ammunition for future battles: Paul said of love, “it keeps no record of wrongs” (1Corinthians 13:5). In conflicts, married couples often stockpile the wrongs of the past to use them in future arguments. To actually forgive the other from the heart and never bring up the other’s past offenses is seen as giving the other too much of an advantage.
- The wrong is so great that it seems unjust to forgive: cruelty beyond comprehension occurs in this world. Horrible images come to my mind as I think of people I’ve counseled who have suffered in such extreme ways that I don’t even know how they function day in and day out. Unfortunately, the perpetrators of horrors in people’s lives are not just the Hitlers, Stalins, and Bin Ladens of history. Some secretly evil people may be your neighbors, members of your church, or coworkers. They brutalize children and their spouses and carry out all sorts of unspeakable things behind closed doors while maintaining a respectable reputation. It is natural to hold onto resentment when that person has been on the receiving end of monstrous wrong. However, holding onto resentment means that the abuser continues to control the victim’s life (sometimes even after the abuser has died). Only when people let go of their hate can they be free from those who hurt them so greatly.
Realize that this letting-go-of-resentment process can take a lot of time. Christians, family, and friends often try to pressure the abused to forgive before they have even dealt with the impact of the abuse. Abuse damages at a spiritual level because it impacts trust and peace. We must allow people the time they need to work through the hurts. It is also important to realize that forgiveness does not mean they must have a relationship with those who abused them. It is rare when an abuser admits the abuse. God does not forgive unless a person repents. Should we think that he holds us to higher standards? At the very least, the severely wronged need to let go of thoughts of revenge for their own peace of mind.
Whether people have excellent reasons or petty excuses for holding onto some or all of the wrong done to them, the usual result is resentment. The bitterness that remains in our hearts can transform us into ugly people – sometimes making us more hideous than those who wronged us. Paul said, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32). It is for our benefit that we forgive. Bitterness is spiritual cancer that can destroy more thoroughly than any fleshly malignancy. Neglected in one area of life, it metastasizes and spreads throughout the whole spirit.
There is one step beyond unforgiveness, and that is revenge. Vengeance is an active, aggressive form of resentment that presumes to climb up into God’s judgment seat and take the law into its own hands. Paul said:
Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Christians who are humble, moving in a new direction, submissive to God, and hungry for what is right may have passing thoughts of retaliation, but they will not invite those thoughts to stay. We are to be deeply aware that God has shown great mercy to us and realize it is hypocritical and ungrateful to accept God’s forgiveness and not be willing to give the same to others. With clients obsessing over thoughts of vengeance, I illustrate that revenge is like backing a person against a wall and driving a spear through your belly to impale your trapped enemy.
A reminder once more that mercy is more than forgiveness
Mercy involves the pardoning of wrongs, but as mentioned earlier, it carries the idea of loving-kindness and showing pity to those who are in need. The mercy God expects of us expands far beyond the forgiveness of our sins. It involves working to alleviate the pain and suffering of people. It is the showing of compassion toward those less fortunate. It is doing for others, as we would have them do for us. It is the free giving of our time and money to those who are less fortunate. It is being patient, longsuffering, and providing comfort. It is remembering how much help we have had along the way and giving a hand to those we meet who need similar help. It is warning those who are going down deadly paths. It is (and this is likely the most challenging because it goes so much against our natural responses) not retaliating when others mistreat us.
People with merciful hearts will do more than say, “That’s okay,” to the ones who wrong them. They will actively seek out those who are hurting and in need. They will treat others graciously. A merciful person’s life will be characterized by love, kindness, selflessness, and a lifestyle focused on others and their needs (especially their spiritual needs).
Mercy parallels a poorness of spirit – we never forget our size and our absolute need for God. Mercy connects to mournfulness. Mournfulness is deep sadness over the fallen world in which we live. Mercifulness is a genuine willingness to do something about those who suffer because of the condition on this earth. Mercifulness has at its foundation meekness. We submit to Christ; his words and his life teach us. The merciful character that God desires from us is based upon our hungering and thirsting after righteousness – having a passion for being filled with God, which his Son promised he would do. Christ’s mercy cost him dearly. If we follow the Rabbi, it will cost us, but that’s okay – for the cost is immeasurably outweighed by the benefit.
They shall receive mercy
There is a beautiful blessing that comes to those who are merciful – “they will be shown mercy.” However, implicit in the words is that God’s mercy has conditions. I have read many explanations that eliminate any consequences for not showing mercy. The motivations behind these arguments seem sincere – these people don’t want to minimize God’s gracious gifts in any way. However, their reasoning is convoluted. The Bible was written for ordinary people, not for clever philosophers and theologians.
Taking this beatitude and the other teachings of Jesus as the simple words of a country rabbi who wanted to be understood by people of exceptional commitment but ordinary intelligence, God is very willing to forgive and bless us freely. Still, he will withdraw the offer if we cannot treat others with similar graciousness. Going back to the clay pot metaphor: we are capping the pot when we won’t allow it to run through us so it can pour into others. The capping process shuts off the inflow as we are capping off the outflow. There is no way for God’s mercy to flow into us unless it is at the same time flowing out of us. “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15). This may conflict with some Christian theologies, but it is hard to deny such straightforward words (unless we hold that our beliefs are weightier than God’s words). The literal translation of this beatitude is, “Blessed are the merciful for they will be mercied.” Jesus assures us that if we show patience, loving-kindness, and generosity, we will be shown the same.
How do we know we are merciful?
Being merciful is more than showing mercy to a person here or there. Even the evilest individuals can let things slide occasionally. The mercifulness that Jesus says will be blessed is one in which a person’s life is characterized by:
- Deep and lasting gratitude: we do not forget the kindness shown to us by God and the enormous price paid to redeem us. In Jesus’ parable in Matthew 18, the servant was undoubtedly grateful for receiving the full pardoning of a billion-dollar debt. Still, his gratitude was shallow and fleeting and did not translate into any change of heart. So likewise, mercy realizes the outrageous unfairness of accepting God’s forgiveness while being unwilling to forgive others’ debts.
- Patience: godly mercy remembers how long it took to get to its present place in spiritual growth. It realizes that others may have more problems to overcome or not have as many personal resources for change. Therefore, we give people the benefit of the doubt instead of being critical and judgmental.
- Forgiveness and letting go of resentments: mercy is proactive in resolving issues with others. It realizes how dangerous even the thoughts of retaliation can be, and so it seeks out and eliminates even the seeds of revenge fantasies. Mercy recognizes that getting back at others, despite the initial good feelings it brings, is immature and unspiritual. We understand that refusing to forgive, no matter the wrong we suffered, is not beneficial for us.
- Spontaneous mercy: We can know that our life is progressing toward mercifulness when our first thoughts when someone wrongs us is, “What good could I do for them?” This is not natural in any way. It is the transformation of your deepest instincts by God. Early Christians had that – we can have it too.