Monday, March 14, 2011


 “I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.”
Abraham Lincoln

            The relationship between justice and mercy is a complicated one.  In some ways, they seem to work against each other, largely because we live in a world that defines justice in a very cowboy-esque, round up the bad guys kind of way.  Justice involves action – seeking, enacting, doling out.  Mercy is a bit more passive – it’s something we have, something we show.  And if we’re nothing else, we are people of action.
How do you encourage people to be merciful without encouraging people to be doormats?  Is it possible to find further strength in mercy, in the courage it takes to admit that you might be wrong?  I just spent the last few weeks trying to exegete (non-seminary / church friends, that basically just means reading the heck out of it and trying to understand what it means) Matthew 5:21-24.  Christ’s thoughts on anger.  And really, ouch.  The passage posits that a major priority of life is reconciliation with our brothers and sisters.  And, for most of the people I know, it’s pretty easy to think about forgiveness in terms of being the forgiver … less so when it comes to the need to be forgiven.   But this passage indicates that our human-to-human relationships matter a great deal, and that true reconciliation, grounded in a humble desire to forgive and to be forgiven, is the greatest gift we can give… to God and to ourselves.
I think that this form of justice first and foremost requires that we risk thinking we might be mistaken.  It means daring to sacrifice our very comfortable view of the world in the name of seeing things from another perspective, and willingly accepting that, just as others might need our forgiveness, surely we too need to be forgiven.  And therein, we all depend on the grace of mercy.

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