Blessed are the Merciful!1
This week at Bridgeway we looked at our Lord’s declaration, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matt. 5:7). In this brief article I want to share with you the most biblical example of mercy that I’ve ever seen. I’ve written about Jackie Pullinger many times before, but I make no apology for speaking of her yet again.
I first met Jackie in January of 1991 in California. I had dinner with her and listened for two hours as she told me her life story. I remember calling Ann that night and saying, “I think I met a Christian tonight!” “What do you mean, you met a Christian. You’ve met a lot of Christians. You’re a Christian! There are 7,000 Christians at the conference you’re attending.” “No, you don’t understand. I met a real Christian tonight.” It wasn’t until later when I told Ann about her that she finally understood what I meant.
In 1966, at the age of 22, Jackie literally boarded a slow boat to China. She didn’t know that was where God was leading her. She simply left England and prayed that God would tell her when to get off. When the ship docked in Hong Kong, she got off. And she’s been there for the past 54 years.
Doing what, you ask? Showing mercy to members of the Triads, Hong Kong’s version of the Mafia. Showing mercy to teenage prostitutes, heroin and opium addicts, orphans and the homeless. When Jackie arrived in Hong Kong she was led to what was known as the Walled City, a place you have to see to believe, although it has now been torn down. On 6 ½ acres lived upwards of 75,000 people. The Walled City was an island unto itself. Neither China nor Great Britain exercised any authority there. That is why it became a haven for criminals, drug dens, and a refuge for every manner of criminal. There was no running water, no electricity, no police presence. Sewage ran freely down the sidewalks and the bodies of those who had died the night before were frequently found outside the next day.
Jackie walked into this place as a single woman of 22 and began showing mercy. She fed the hungry, clothed the naked, prayed for addicts and prostitutes, and opened up her tiny apartment for those who otherwise would have slept in the streets.
In those 54 years of ministry Jackie has led literally thousands to Jesus. She has prayed over hundreds and hundreds of drug addicts as they came off heroin and opium cold turkey. What was the key to her success? Mercy! Yes, Jackie preached the gospel. She told them about Jesus. But it was her display of mercy that the Spirit used to open their hearts. They would often say to her, “We never listened to the message of other western missionaries. They would come for a week or ten days and then return to the comforts of western society. But you stayed. Your mercy and love for us are real.”
It was because of the mercy that God had poured out on Jackie through Jesus Christ that Jackie in turn poured it out on the people of the Walled City. And it was that mercy the Spirit used to open their hearts to the gospel.
You and I probably aren’t called to Hong Kong. I’ve been called to OKC. Perhaps some of you will eventually go to the nations. But one thing is certain: wherever we live, wherever God has called us, he has given us mercy that we in turn can give it to others.
So remember: the merciful are blessed, for they shall receive mercy!
[You can read about Jackie and her life in Hong Kong in her autobiography, Chasing the Dragon.]