A few weeks ago, an employee at Hawaii's emergency alert system made an error that sent the whole island state into a panic, but the whole nation went into an uproar when, at least in the immediate fallout, that employee was allowed to continue working for Hawaii's emergency alert system (albeit in a different role). He should be fired.
A whole series of famous, and not-so-famous, men have been accused (not convicted or even charged, but merely accused) of sexual harassment or assault, and they have lost their jobs, lost their standing, been blackballed, been written out, been demonized and rejected and spit on. As it should be.
A woman cut the unborn baby out of her neighbor's womb in her bathroom and presented the child to her own mate as their own, and without missing a beat, we call her the scum of the earth, a horrible woman, and we condemn her. Someone should cut her into pieces.
The stories go on and on; you can probably fill in some more on your own. Every time a new headline breaks, we jump right for the throat and demand vengeance. Not justice. We call it justice, but it's really not. It's vengeance. We want someone to pay for the wrongs in this world, however small or large, real or imagined, justified or unjustified.
Because, you see, we have lost room for mercy.
It's because we have come to believe that mercy and truth are fundamentally opposed to one another. They cannot exist in the same space. If it's true that the employee committed an error, then he must lose his job. If he doesn't lose his job, we are somehow saying he didn't screw up. If it's true that a man can be accused of a sexual trespass, then he should be demonized. If we don't demonize him, we are somehow saying that he couldn't have committed a sexual trespass. If it's true that this woman cut a baby out of her neighbor's womb, then she ought to be cut up. If we don't cut her up, we are somehow saying she didn't cut her neighbor.
If there is truth, there cannot be mercy, for the mercy would obscure, at least, if not negate somehow the truth.
But the biblical idea of mercy could not be further from the world's. Real mercy could not be closer to the truth. In fact, it depends upon it.
Biblical mercy - real mercy - is the idea that you don't get what you deserve. It's the idea that you should be fired, demonized, or cut up, but you aren't. The only way that you understand that you aren't, that you haven't gotten what you deserve, is to be honest about what you deserve and confess what you are.
In other words, mercy does not exist where truth is absent. It can't. It is entirely contingent upon authenticity, confession, and a real admission of what you deserve. Mercy requires you to say, I screwed up. I trespassed. I wounded. I cut. I hurt. I fell short. I did it. I'm guilty. And if I wasn't guilty, I'd have no need of mercy.
So contrary to what the world says, mercy doesn't cheapen truth; it strengthens it. And truth strengthens mercy. It is not in a world of mercy that truth has no meaning, but in a world of truth that mercy gets its deepest meaning.
Which means that it is upon us, as Christians, to bring mercy back. It is upon us to lead the calls amid truth for mercy. It is upon us to show that these two ideas are not mutually exclusive, but intimately inclusive - they depend upon one another.
It is upon us to say, you did. But neither do I condemn you.
Because mercy is a Jesus thing. It's one of the best of all Jesus things. It's time to start bringing it back.
And it starts - not ends - with truth.