Standard of mercy
Years ago, we lived in Zaandam while we were starting a youth discipleship school in Amsterdam. We tried to make time to visit Haarlem because we loved the architecture, shopping and its “old-Dutch” feel. The real truth was, we had fallen in love with the city! One of the many features we liked were the Hofjes of Haarlem. You had only to walk through an arched door and your world became quiet with a peace that encouraged soul-searching. The air smelled fresh and the flowers shown like colored gems. We always wondered who lived behind each glossily, painted door and except for an occasional cat lounging in a window there was nothing but beautiful silence; an anomaly in the hectic, noisy world we live in today.
The word “Hofje” means small garden and if you have ever grown flowers or planted vegetables for your table you know how much work and tender care goes into a successful outcome. You prune, water, weed and fertilize. You watch with a careful eye for the harvest and do your best to protect it from the storm. The Dutch have always been planters and harvesters and when they built the Hofjes there was a prevailing need to perform something called, “The Christian Seven Works of Mercy”: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, bury the dead, shelter the traveler, comfort the sick and free the imprisoned.
Does not the timeless word of God still call to us to have the same standard of mercy?
In the western world it is so easy to ignore the plight of the hurting. We don’t have the leper walking through the Grote Markt crying out, “Untouchable!” Our “hurting” walk by us carefully disguised in blue jeans with a wayward smile. Their puffy-coats are tightly zipped over a broken heart wrapped in the same rags of the leper. They slip by us because of demanding jobs, active children, traveling, exercising regularly, cultivating friendships, cooking, cleaning, studying, the list goes on-and-on… and 24 hours is not enough time to find a place to breathe. We have health, affluence the rest of the world can’t even dream of and a form of peaceful freedom.
However, if we let the quiet breezes of the Hofje blow over us we will feel the need to be the real hands, the loving heart to those who need mercy. Our prayer is that “The Meeting Place” will be a hofje in our busy city, a place of God’s mercy and restoration; a place where a tender hand can help a hurting soul grow.
“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you’- when you already have it with you.” - Proverbs 3:27-28
Nothing more beautiful than ice skating in front of the ‘Rijksmuseum’.
On a nice summerday at the river Spaarne.
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