I have a lot to learn. I’ve always known this, but my 5-year-old son taught my wife and I a life lesson the other day. In the wake of the tragedy with the little boy from Nebraska who was attacked by an alligator, lots of thoughts and questions go through our minds. How could this happen? Who let this happen? Why were there not signs warning of alligators? Whose fault is this? Will the family sue? Why were the parents not more careful? Amidst all of these questions, one simple question sobered my wife and I when the first question my 5-year-old son asked was, “What was his name?”
What was his name? His name was Lane, and that is the first thing my son thought of when my wife told him about what had happened? Knowing someone’s name is one of the most basic things we can know about a person. We all have a name, it’s part of who we are, it’s part of our dignity, our story. But, we live in a world where names are often hidden behind the screen of a computer, where attacks can be made without consequence. Where opinions, whether right or wrong, are shared with a sense of entitlement. We are quick to make snap judgments of people and we don’t care what comes of our words.
Tears fell from my eyes when I heard that my son simply wanted to know his name. His next question was, “Was he my friend?” What beauty and innocence God graces us with when He creates us. My son is the kid who shows up at a playground where he doesn’t know anyone and says, “Hey guys! I’m here! Will you play with me?” His sense of adventure and genuine love of people is something only God could create in a person. And I don’t look forward to the day where someone rips that spirit of love away from him by casting a quick judgment or paralyzing word.
We, as a society, often forget about the simple dignities that each person is due. We’ve stopped addressing each other by name and instead, look at people as labels or judgments. But, God created us all in the same love. His love is what bore us a Savior in Jesus Christ. He intended to share His mercy with us from the beginning. He knew at the moment of creation that we would need a Savior to pay the debt that we couldn’t pay. Yet, He still creates us. He gives us His breath of life and promises us His Son to provide eternal life. And as a whole, our world needs to be reminded of that mercy. We are in desperate need of mercy.
I’m a Roman Catholic Worship Leader and this year is very special in the Catholic Church. Our earthly leader and pastor, Pope Francis, has declared this year a Jubilee Year of Mercy. What does that mean? Jesus opened wide the doors to salvation when He died on a cross and rose from the dead. Our world, including our churches at times, are “shuttered by cliques and hearts hardened to compassion” says Pope Francis. That says it right there: Hearts hardened to compassion. That is what my son has not lost yet, and I pray that he never does. His first concern was the well-being of the boy whose name he wanted to know, who may have been a potential friend. This Year of Mercy is a time to focus, more ardently, on the love and mercy of our God. That mercy is the bridge between God and humanity, reminding us that we are loved DESPITE our sinfulness.
That sinfulness can be forgiven through God’s mercy. But, we often are not willing to ask forgiveness, we would rather hold onto our sin and keep it for ourselves. Our Lord, however, calls us to Him, so He can share His love, a love that is unlike any love we have ever known.
In January 2015, I woke up in the middle of the night with this thought in my head, “Hatred is a burden I no longer want to carry.” I typed it in my phone and went back to sleep. Soon after, I wrote a song called “Mercy, Mercy,” trying to bring to life what God’s mercy is like. I think God works in beautiful and funny ways. I did not know that the Pope would declare this the Year Of Mercy a mere two months later. But, God put this song on my heart, and I embraced the theme. God does not look at us as successes and failures. Rather, He looks at us as sons and daughters. Sons and daughters that He has created. Let us never forget that. Let us never forget that we all have a name. He calls us by name.
P.J. Anderson is a Worship Leader & Artist based in Nashville, TN. PJ’s highly anticipated 5th release, Mercy Mercy, releases July 26th.