The Quality of Mercy

There was a long line of socially distanced and masked people between me and the door to Threshold House. They were there to vote while I was there to work. As I passed each I mumbled through my own mask “Excuse me.” I felt like they were all silently judging me as a ‘cutter’ (a phrase from my elementary school days that means a person cutting into line). I recalled how angry I could get at such injustice and I wanted to explain that I was not jumping ahead of anyone, I had legitimate reason for bypassing the queue.

In a flash I began to contemplate how often I might have been unreasonably irked as I projected wrong motives on other ‘seeming cutters. It seems I have a high sense of justice for others while hoping for a high quotient of mercy from others. What a hypocrite I can be!

Surely I am not alone in holding, so easily, these opposing double standards. This is why Jesus adjures us to love others as we love our selves. Judgement seizes me when I perceive a slight, but I give a lot of grace to myself because I understand my circumstances.

The other day at a Bible Study some one asked about this commandment “What if you don’t love yourself?” This may indeed be a problem for many, yet we all crave to be understood. At the very least this command exhorts us to strive to understand others. Even when we cannot know what someone  is going through or what their motivation might be we owe it to Jesus to impute the best of intentions. This allows peace to continue to reign in my life and allows God to judge the hearts and motives. It keeps me from the sin of pridefully and illegitimately sitting in judgement, and avoids harming a fellow sojourner.

I never want to lose my sense of justice, but I do not want to cheapen this gift from God, by misusing it! My hearts cry, in regard to my own sin-filled life, is “Let mercy triumph over justice!” This then ought to be my predisposition toward others. It is a most Christ-like characteristic and ought then to be a distinctive in his Church.  

“Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7)

In these Beatitudes Jesus sets out the distinctives of the Kingdom of God. He invites, encourages and exhorts us to join him in living these values out in our lives. He does this not to lay a greater burden on us but instead to free us up to live happy and blessed lives as free citizens of the imperishable beautiful Kingdom of God.

Mercy is difficult to offer sometimes but it is always a wonderful thing to receive. Saint Francis (a hero of mine) calls us to ‘seek to understand rather than be understood’. I think that attitude may be the most freeing of all!

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