For I desire steadfast love not sacrifice… Hosea 6:6 Sometimes we mistake sacrifice (the act of giving up something of value for something else) for love. While love is certainly filled with gives and takes, it’s more about letting go of the things we’ve collected, the knowledge we’ve gained and the judgments to which we’ve held. It should be easy but we forget that Love existed unconditionally before any of those things. Love is not about giving up something. Love is about opening our hearts to receive the one thing that so completely surpasses all our understanding, that everything else simply steps aside.
Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Matthew 9:9-17 Jesus is sitting at the table with tax collectors and sinners, those marginalized by society, treated as unworthy and shamed for having done something “sinful.” When pressed by the Pharisees to justify himself, Jesus challenges them with a statement straight out of Hosea (6:6), the prophet commanded to marry a prostitute! Part of their challenge is understanding where they fit in the story. By sitting with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus demonstrates that no physical sacrifice takes the place of God’s mercy and grace for his people. Jesus, like Hosea joins himself with the lost and the marginalized. His purpose is first to heal, redeem and reconcile them back to God. If the Pharisees see themselves as the righteous and their knowledge of the law as a gift, the challenge is clear; they too are charged to show mercy. What are our gifts? Where do we fit in the story? I’ve come to understand that the gifts God has given us is not about us. It’s about God using us through those gifts, in order that everyone has the opportunity to sit with Christ at the table of mercy, receive healing, and be redeemed back into His fold; tax collectors, sinners and Pharisees alike.