Micah 6:8 ESV
“What does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”
A Word of Hope
Events of the last few weeks seem to have touched a nerve – or several.
The Iowa Caucus (do we know the results, yet?), the impeachment hearing, and a slew of resignations sent social media into a heated overdrive. A brief scan of the comments revealed just how brutal we can be as a species. Death threats and fiery vitriol were bandied about with little, if any, hesitation. A friend of mine asked an innocuous question on Facebook about the Oscars on the day of the ceremony, and it took all of eight minutes to devolve into a puzzlingly political e-brawl.
And while I appreciate much of the passion and dedication to Social Justice in our current era, the pursuit of justice seems to easily (and too easily) cross over to something more akin to vengeance. In those moments, my soul aches at how stridently we resist opportunities to respond with kindness and mercy.
The book of Micah tells us that what the Lord requires of us is to practice justice and to love mercy.
To love mercy.
The scriptures often link justice and mercy; they are sisters rather than opposites.
Shakespeare, in The Merchant of Venice, describes mercy as “…an attribute to God himself; And earthly power doth then show likest God’s When mercy seasons justice….”
Compassion and mercy toward those around us are, in fact, aspects of God and essential characteristics of the followers of Christ. Which is not to say that mercy is always the proper response. Only that we would do well to remember that justice and mercy are equally divine in nature.
Jesus demonstrated one of his many acts of mercy in the book of Matthew. Jesus is sought out by a Roman centurion (military leader). The centurion’s servant was paralyzed and suffering greatly. At this time, the Romans represented everything that marginalized the Jews. Rome was responsible for their oppression, injustice, and systemic disenfranchisement. Many of Jesus’ followers believed he had come to help overthrow the Roman government and set up a Jewish nation. In this moment when the centurion sought Jesus out to heal his servant, Jesus could easily have responded: “You have your own doctors. You’ve marginalized and oppressed us in our own land. Rome has made life difficult, even unbearable, for my people. So use your privilege to find answers for yourself. Why should I help you? But Jesus said “I will come and heal him.”
In Bryan Stevenson’s brilliant book, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, he provides a moving summation of the power of acting mercifully:
“Mercy is just when it is rooted in hopefulness and freely given. Mercy is most empowering, liberating, and transformative when it is directed at the undeserving. The people who haven’t earned it, who haven’t even sought it, are the most meaningful recipients of our compassion.”
Let us seek such moments in our own lives.
Most Merciful God, we ask that you keep us mindful of those times when we would best reflect Your nature by extending kindness and mercy to those around us. Let us seek to be merciful with the same ardor with which we seek justice. In doing so, show us how we may be instruments of bringing to earth that which exists in heaven. And so it is. Amen.