But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. (John 14:26)
Our memories are powerful. They influence our decisions because they are the lens through which we evaluate the world around us. If we have lived a hard life, with nothing but merciless people, we are not capable of knowing what mercy is. Love is even more alien. This is an example of why we need to be patient with people. Often, the ones who are the most hurtful, are those who have experienced little else in their own lives.
The way to mercy and love is to model it so others have a new memory. Why has the New Testament remained so relevant for over two thousand years? Jesus and his followers presented a powerful set of memories of mercy and love that offers a new way of perceiving the world. Imagine a first-century slave, whose entire life was nothing but pain and shame. Now, there is an invitation of inclusion, acceptance, and equality. This memory can be more influential than all the suffering that led up to that moment of hope.
Yet, two-thousand-year-old stories cannot make for a successful life transformation. It is too easy to ignore these stories. People do it all the time, when they find every reason to avoid church. It is our task to make those two-thousand-year-old stories come alive in our actions. Only then will people stop long enough to watch and listen. People are hungry to have those Scriptural stories come alive. When we contemporary disciples live our faith in mercy and love, it is much harder to ignore. The personal memories of mercy and love become too powerful. Now, cruelty and hard-heartedness are no longer the primary memory. Now, there is room for the Holy Spirit to move and renew the soul.
Today, pray for each person’s memories and the way they are interpreted. For those of you whose memories are overwhelmingly loving, you are truly blessed. For the vast majority of us, we need to rely on the loving example of others to guide our way to the footsteps of Christ. Then, when our own faith grows, we become the example. The more we are able to offer Christ-like examples, the more other’s faith grows as well as our own. When our faith memories and those of others are intertwined, God is honored, and the Spirit blesses us with deeper mercy and love.