Sunday, May 16, 2010

To love mercy (2)

One individual really stands out to me as someone who embraced God's call to love mercy: Richard Wurmbrand (1909-2001).  A Romanian Jew, Richard converted to Christianity at age 29 after having chased a life of pleasure in Bucharest during the pre-Second World War era.  When God took hold of his heart he became a Lutheran minister, pursuing the life of faith in Christ with the same abandon as his former life of pleasure.  When the communists took power after World War II this meant that he would spend 14 years in different prisons suffering various forms of torture at the hands of interrogators and prison guards because of his belief in Jesus.

During this imprisonment, Romania's political regime changed like a revolving door; power passed from one group within the party to another continuously.  When Wurmbrand was not in isolation, he ministered to fellow prisoners with words and with deeds, preaching the Gospel and giving away his precious morsels of dry bread or sugar to those in dire need.  And, because of the changes in the political climate, he often encountered prisoners who had previously been his tormentors, having tortured him years before when they were in power.

But that did not deter him from showing love and mercy.  One time Wurmbrand nursed a former torturer on his death bed, cleaning pus, blood and feces from his dying body--without the luxuries of running water or clean cloths.  Where did this deep mercy come from?  How was it conceived in such circumstances?

Wurmbrand understood that his calling was to 'build a bridge between good and evil; a bridge of tears, prayers and self-sacrifice for sinners to cross over and join the blessed.' (p.53 In God's Underground)

Reading and re-reading elements of Wurmbrand's story bring new meaning to the words "To love mercy"; they don't just conjure up warm and fuzzy feelings that shift with every changing wind.  Rather they trigger thoughts of mercy so powerful that even unimaginably awful circumstances cannot overwhelm it--mercy that must come from God's nature in us...mercy beyond our good intentions.

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