Thursday, October 14, 2010


In recent days, I have been part of a crowd that was exposed to a reconsideration of the concept of mercy. We were reminded that a Biblical worldview is replete with this hard, but vitally important practice. God is merciful to us; we are to practice mercy toward one another. In conversation, we became more aware that mercy is something in "short supply."

Long ago I heard someone say that most of us, "want justice for everybody else and mercy for ourselves." Justice here carries with it as least a tinge of punishment if not outright application. For some reason we are usually able to justify the difference, claiming one response for ourselves and another for someone else. Do they deserve "justice" more than we?

Another difficult part of living out mercy is that it is all too easy to want a "selective mercy." When someone we know or who is somewhat like us stumbles, mercy extended comes easier to us. But when a perpetrator of wrong really does something horrid or, at least, is harmful in a way we find totally unacceptable, then we can't seem to bring ourselves to be merciful.

Several years ago when the children of Amish families were slaughtered in their own schoolhouse and the killer then took his own life, mercy played out in a dramatic way. To be sure, we must never assume that those families did not grieve and have the widest range of emotions about that horror. We probably cannot imagine the depth of pain that was expressed behind closed doors. But those families showed mercy by reaching out to the family of the shooter, offering forgiveness, assistance, and support. The media just did not know what to do with that and so they reported very little about it. Most of us did not know what to do with that, so we just wondered and asked how such could be possible.

Every day I sense more indicators of how divided our country is; how angry we are with each other and with circumstances of the day? Where is the mercy?

It is in short supply. But this often misunderstood, seldom applied offering of self must be reinstated. Else, we really are in trouble.

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