I just stepped off the front porch of the New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in East Biloxi, Miss. Today was the memorial service for Miss Cora Reddix, one of the beautiful widows that we served in the already declining neighborhood that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
Before Katrina, Cora Reddix had already lived much of life. She had been through the throws of the Civil Rights movement in the deep south, she had lost a child—a victim of murder, she had even lost her home once before Katrina, during Hurricane Camille. After Katrina she was victimized again, losing her life savings to a would-be contractor preying on the vulnerable in the aftermath of the storm.
With little to offer when we arrived—we were as out of place then as I was preaching in Cora’s memorial service—but we promised to do all that we could. We further promised to keep showing up until the work was done. Over the next months, volunteers kept coming until she had, from the ground up, the most beautiful home that she had ever lived in, painted in Kelly green, the color of her choosing. In trade, we were blessed every day by a godly woman who spoke words of blessing and healing over each of us. It was a good trade.
The compassion conversation always seems to morph to a mercy conversation for me. I’m simply moved and motivated by His goodness towards us. While completely different circumstances, I can’t help but be reminded of the heart of Jesus toward the woman in John 8 who was caught in the act of adultery, now thrown at His feet for Him to provide a sentence. The following three observations are among the many things that move me about Jesus as I read this account.
His willingness to look directly to an individual without needing the back-story. John 8:10
The story was framed for him by her accusers and it was almost as though he was deaf and blind to the context as he focused in, with compassion, on a person in severe need. His love was unconditional and unyielding.
His intervention that provided her enough headroom to stand up and embrace what He was providing for her. John 8:6-11
Clearly, Jesus provides the instruction for her to “go now and leave your life of sin,” (verse 11) but he does so well after merciful provision is made for her to first stand up without accusation.
His mercy that made allowance for everyone to walk away. John 8:9
Often missed as a critical part of the story—Jesus let everyone off the hook here. It causes me to realize that his compassion and mercy is big enough for all of us. And for that, I am so grateful.
Fittingly, the closing statement of Miss Cora’s memorial service, spoken by Missionary Baptist pastor Dr. Kenneth Hollins was: “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever!” (Hebrews 13:8).
By: Mike Mercer, a pastor-at-large at Beaverton Foursquare Church and president of Compassion First