The second thing that God requires from us, after we do justice, is to love mercy. And where we seem to have a starting point for doing justice, since we're at least talking about it all the time, we're in a bit of a pickle when it comes to loving mercy.
Because, quite frankly, we don't.
Oh, most of us love mercy when we're the recipients of it. In those times when we don't get what we deserve, when we hold our breath waiting for the other shoe to drop and it never does, when we rehearse our defenses a thousand times in our heads before we realize we don't need them - then, we kind of love mercy. Except, not really.
We only really love ourselves.
To love mercy means we love mercy wherever it is found, particularly in others. It means that we love it when the criminal gets early parole. It means that we love it when the sinner gets a second chance. It means that we love it when the marriage is saved. Even when it seems foolish to us, even when it seems unfair, even when it seems unfathomable, loving mercy means we truly love mercy and celebrate it wherever we see it.
This is hard. Most of us don't want to do it. Some of us staunchly refuse. Why? Because it introduces shades of grey where it's so much easier for us to see black and white.
Mercy introduces humanity back into the picture. It forces us to see more than we are initially willing to see. It broadens out the picture for us.
Consider the man on death row who gets a last-minute pardon. It's mercy. He's not getting what he deserves. (Remember, as we've looked at in other places, that mercy is not getting what we deserve and grace is getting what we don't deserve.) But then, some diligent reporter tracks down the criminal's mother, and she is weeping tears of joy. At least...at least, she says...she can still come to visit her son. All of a sudden, that 'bad guy' is someone's son. He's someone's father. He's the former honor student, captain of the football team, foster child, juvenile delinquent, whomever. All of a sudden, he's got a story, not just a headline.
Consider someone famous like, say, Michael Vick. Since his arrest, almost all of the talk about Michael Vick has been about Vick, the dog fighter. It's been about his headlines. Now, he's been given a sports-based talk show, and some are up in arms about this. He ought to be blackballed forever! they say. He never ought to have a second chance. Marked for life! But it's quite possible, mercy says, that there's more to Michael Vick than a criminal conviction. Mercy isn't willing to mark him.
Consider the man everyone is talking about right now - the one who allegedly shot hundreds of individuals in Las Vegas just a couple of nights ago. He, too, is dead. And although there will be significant public pressures, those who loved him will still show up at his funeral. How could they? we ask, indignantly. He ought to be wiped off the face of the earth, forgotten! But it's not that easy. Mercy says we still go to his funeral because he's more than a mass murderer; he is a brother, a son, a friend, a former business partner, a community presence, etc. Mercy says we don't just write him off.
At every turn, mercy shows us more of a man than we've truly been willing to see. It makes us expand our vision. It requires us to tune into shades of grey.
We love it when it happens to us, right? We love it when mercy steps in and reveals that we are more than our biggest (or most recent) mistake. We love it when mercy says that we're more than mere sinners. We love it when mercy shows that it's not so easy to think you know so much about us.
The key, though, to truly loving mercy is to love it when it does the same things for someone else.
That's what God requires.
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