What is mercy?
Mercy for others can often be difficult to understand, in particular when it comes to heinous crimes. The abuse of children comes to mind, especially when it is sexual in nature. There is much in this world that cries out for justice and this desire is the strongest when a loved one is wronged, hurt, or their life taken away. Then there are the ‘little’ things that can affect us. Sin is a hard concept to understand, until it becomes personnel, then it is shown for the horror that it is, its power to destroy others and to leave only bitterness for many for the rest of their lives.
Justice and vengeance are fraternal twins, not identical but close enough where they can be confused one for another. However when anyone commits an act of injustice or evil towards another, the one who commits the act will often have ‘good reasons’ for why the act was committed. A portion of the victimizer’s humanity has to be shut off in order to hurt or destroy another human being. This shut off could become permanent if it becomes a dedicated way of life. I believe this happens more often than supposed.
Mercy can be bestowed by one human being for another, but it does no good for the one who commits the wrong if it is not understood the depth of pain and the injustice committed. Also mercy is proffered by God for all, yet if again, the extent of ones wrong doing is not understood it may be of little worth or affect. The heart can be shielded from the pain that mercy bestows, if accepted, a pain deeper than the wrong committed, if understood completely.
For instance; a good loving parent, or friend, will know when they do some wrong to their children or to a friend. There is no shield of self righteousness to hide behind, there is only the humility that love bestows, and the seeking after mercy and forgiveness is the fruit of that love. When a child of a parent or of a friend is shown mercy, then the one who gives it takes on suffering, this happens because justice is not demanded. However the one who receives, the deeper he or she understands the extent of what they did causes also a deep pain and desire to reach out and find healing in forgiveness. If mercy is denied, it can throw the one seeking it back on them-selves and lead to deep bitterness and even despair. If justice is demanded, then the relationship may die, since more often than not revenge is also part of the equation. The asking for mercy and the receiving is not bestowed without pain and suffering for both parties.
If a person does not seek mercy, then it is a way to flee from this process and leads to further isolation and alienation from others. Self-righteousness is its own hell, for without self knowledge that is all that is left.
If the soul allows itself to become a lie, then when shown the painful light of truth and mercy it withdraws into further darkness. This is a choice, a free choice. If not, then there is something deeper going on and in the end mercy will triumph, it just may take more time. However I believe that it is possible to freely decide not to seek mercy, either in this life, or in the next. Hell is self-righteousness chosen freely for eternity. Is that possible? Yes it is. I see it in myself. This pull towards humility, the earthy virtue of accepting truth about my self, and running away into a safe, small place, alone, isolated.
Mercy is bestowed; its healing can only be experienced by the depth that it is received. In the Christian faith conversion means a turning away from one life to another….this entails a species of inner death to self. We are all in need of mercy, we all wound and hurt others, and perhaps most of us run from the implications of the pain we rain down on those around us. Yet, when it happens to me, I understand, perhaps this is a doorway to understanding what I have done to others and make me more amendable to showing mercy. While we can do great harm and cause pain, it can often be done in ignorance, so personnel pain can alert us to the sensitivity of others and learn to be merciful.
God’s love is manifested in mercy, which is also justice. In the life review in the NDE, I believe that to experience what we have done from the perspective of those we have interacted with, to allow that to happen, is a choice. If we have become ‘seekers of truth and love’, then we will be open to the reality and truth of the light of God’s love. If we have become ‘a lie’, then we will turn our backs and what we have become, we embrace for eternity.
It is easy to forget that Christ Jesus came to save, yet it seems that many Christians only want to judge and add up the body count of those who spend eternity with themselves alone. The nature of infinite mercy can only be grasped I believe in part by what Christ Jesus went through. In order to impart mercy, Jesus had to forgo justice, hence his suffering freely chosen and embraced. When we show mercy, we share in that suffering. I still am only at the beginning of understanding of what that means. The popular interpretations that believers have are true in part, but again, infinite love and mercy is not something that can be understood, it can only be experienced and the purifying pain of that can’t be expressed, nor can the joy.
Oh Lord that I may understand,
for I am always at the beginning,
the mystery deepens
yet your grace calls
allowing my own unknowing
to spur me on.