There is a story about a businessman who rode the subway into downtown New York every day. He took the escalator up to the street and walked to the corner where he bought a newspaper from a little boy yelling, “Paper! Paper!” at the top of his lungs. The man smiled, handed the boy a quarter for a newspaper that cost only a dime back then, and thanked the little boy for it. The boy never smiled, never said thank you and never acknowledged the generous tip the man gave him. A fellow passenger observed this procedure day after day and finally spoke to the man after he had made his purchase. “Pardon me, but every day I have observed you giving that little boy a quarter for a dime newspaper. You always smile at him and you always thank him, but he never even acknowledges that you exist. He just takes your money and keeps on yelling, “Paper! Paper!” Why are you so pleasant to that miserable little brat?” The businessman looked surprised at the question and replied, “I’m not going to let that little boy tell me how to act.”

How many of us follow the rule that if you are nice to me, I will be nice to you, but if you ignore me, then I will ignore you? Why do we allow others to dictate to us how we treat them? Didn’t Jesus say, “Do to others as you would have them do to you”? He did not say treat them as they treat us, but as we would like them to treat us.

If we merely react to others, then they are our boss. They have us on a string like a puppet, in effect, and we simply respond to them as they dictate to us. How can we please the Lord if we let others control our actions?

Jesus continued, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.”

We are told that even criminals love their mothers. We are glad they do and only wish they loved their enemies as they love their mothers.

The virtues we are to emulate are not unknown to the world, but what Jesus is asking us to do is certainly not done to any extent in the world. The flesh reacts, but we as disciples must act. We should love our enemies in contrast to the world, which loves its friends. Let us listen as Jesus continues to instruct us. “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

Remember, we must not let a rude little boy or anyone else tell us how to act. The Master taught, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Being merciful, therefore, is being kind to the undeserving, generous to enemies, and non-judgmental toward others. We need all the mercy we can get, so we had better show mercy, even to rude little newspaper boys, for then our reward will be great, and we will be sons and daughters of the Most High.

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Robert J. Lloyd

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