Devotion #32 - The Community of Mercy (by Jason Coker)

The Community of Mercy (by Pastor Jason Coker)

2 Corinthians 1:3-7
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

As if pain and suffering weren’t bad enough, one of the common features of suffering is that those who are afflicted tend to feel terribly alone in their distress. We sometimes distance ourselves from suffering people because we may not have a solution for their troubles. We inherently want to solve problems, but too often we are powerless to fix whatever is broken and so we don’t know what to say, or do!

The Christians in Corinth are going through a particularly difficult time and Paul wants them to know they are not alone, so he charges right out of the gate in this letter with an immediate praise for the “Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.” Paul wants these believers to know, first of all, that they do not suffer without relief, for our God is the God “who comforts us in all our troubles.”

But notice, Paul says here that at times comfort from God comes not in the form of a solution, but in the form of empathy and understanding from others who have suffered the same! Paul says “[God] comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

Paul then uses a powerful image to drive home his point: Picture a large pot being filled with water, the liquid rapidly reaching the top of the container and then gushing over the top, splashing down the sides and running out onto the floor. This is the suffering of Christ, and as believers in Christ, his suffering inevitably spills out onto us; however, this is also the comfort of Christ, and as he comforts others, we too are bathed in that merciful overflow.

This illustrates the surprising and uniquely Christian truth that we can receive comfort and empathy from God for our sufferings because we serve a God who has suffered himself. Christ is the suffering servant, who meets us in our pain and misery - not from a distance, but shoulder-to-shoulder in the muck and mire of our broken humanity. He has been there, and he offers us mercy from a place of understanding!

When we have received this mercy, we respond by giving it to others around us. That is the community of mercy in action. We are common sufferers, and common comforters, in Christ and with Christ, and by this activity we begin to enjoy a kind of equality that is peculiarly meant for the people of the Kingdom of God (2 Co 8:13-15).

Reaching Out in Mercy: Let’s relieve someone’s suffering today by providing empathy and understanding. Perhaps you already know someone who could use some comfort. Go out of your way today to talk to them and just listen, resisting the temptation to first try to fix the problem. If you don’t know of someone who needs a listening ear, then keep your eyes and ears open and be bold enough to pray that God would send you an opportunity. I’ll bet he will!