God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. — Matthew 5:7, NLT (Jesus speaking)
In politics, power has only one purpose: to be used. In an ideal world, political power would be used only to bring good to the powerless, the voiceless, the disenfranchised. In the world of realpolitik, power is wielded as a weapon to hurt the political opposition, because they are the enemy.
The Sudan is an example. Hundreds of thousands killed, millions driven from their homes because they practiced a different religion — Christianity — than those in power. The merciless Janjaweed death squads in Sudan have soaked the ground in innocent blood. President Bashir claims none of this is true; it is all propaganda by his enemies.
In America, most on the political left see Iraq as a bloody and merciless abuse of presidential power. Now that the Democrats have regained power in Congress, there are calls to use that power against the people and policies on the right that they oppose. Some are demanding impeachment.
Where is mercy in all of this?
Our English word mercy comes from the Latin word describing a purchase of merchandise — the “merc” in the word. It meant, “Your debt has been paid in full.” Merci in French has the same meaning.
In the Christian (and judicial) sense, mercy is a debt forgiven, erased from the books, without payment by the debtor.
Mercy is the heart attitude that makes forgiveness possible.
And forgiveness is very, very difficult. Every day the newspapers report on some grieving soul who has lost a loved one to violence. They inevitably (and understandably!) demand punishment for the person who committed this terrible crime.
When we are wronged, when our rights are not respected, when we are hurt, when we are abused, our first reaction is often to strike back. Forcefully.
Which makes Jesus’ words all the more surreal. Turn the other cheek. Treat others as you would like them to treat you. Love your enemies. Show mercy.
Show mercy to the driver who cuts you off. Show mercy to the clerk who gives you attitude. Show mercy to the neighbor with the barking dog. Show mercy to the spouse who has betrayed you.
What would it be like to live in such a way that our every word and thought and action was tempered by mercy?
A pipe dream?
In Christianity, we look at this mercy thing in the context of the cross, where Christ freely died to pay a debt that was not his own, and God freely forgives humanity for the execution of His innocent Son.
That’s what mercy looks like.