Tag Archives: mercy

The Magnificent Messiness Of Mercy

I love mankind. It’s people I can’t stand. ~Linus


Mercy is messy, because no one deserves it. Judgment is the less confusing path.

We find it far easier to stand smugly at a distance and judge another’s suffering. “Stop whining, you made your choices. It’s nobody’s fault but your own.”

From our comfortable perch we can mourn over abstract principles and cultural symbols without having to love the people they represent.

Listen to us! We loyally defend inanimate  ideology, while ignoring the cries of the living.

We rally for a cause, we complain about the system, while avoiding a stranger’s outstretched hand.

We adore nature while carelessly despoiling it, we sentimentalize children we’ve no intention to help, and shed tears for victims we would never allow into our homes.

Compassion doesn’t occur in us naturally. Most of us find it easier to embrace what is distant, theoretical , and simple, over the messy, unpredictable tangibility of earthly need.

In this, we do not resemble our Maker.

Mercy Is God’s Heart

“The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made” (Psalm 145:9). The Hebrew word for mercy here is also the word for womb. How does a protective mother feel about the child she bore? Even more fiercely does God love everything he has made.

The New Testament identifies God as the “Father of mercies” (2 Corinthians 1:3), for “he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked” (Luke 6:35). At the heart of Jesus’ teaching we discover a counter-intuitive command. “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).

Be merciful to those who hate you, curse, and mistreat you, who steal from you, demand things of you–how much messier does mercy get? And what is our motivation to obey?

That we, the unmerciful, receive the mercy of God every single day.

Learning Mercy

Pause for a moment and consider God’s handiwork, the target of his compassion. (See Genesis 1 and 2 for a complete listing).

Now ponder what is not on that list, all that is of human, or inhuman, construction. What are the symbols, the institutions, the idols, the rituals, the traditions, the assumptions–yes, even the pious beliefs–you are tempted to cherish instead?


Sabbath Quiet: New Mercy Every Morning

Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day. Lamentations 3:23

Morning Hymn

New every morning is the love
Our wakening and uprising prove;
Through sleep and darkness safely brought,
Restored to life, and power, and thought.

New mercies, each returning day,
Hover around us while we pray;
New perils past, new sins forgiven,
New thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven.

If, on our daily course, our mind
Be set in hallow all we find,
New treasures still, of countless price,
God will provide for sacrifice.

The trivial round, the common task,
Will furnish all we ought to ask;
Room to deny ourselves, a road
To bring us daily nearer God.

Only, O Lord, in thy dear love
Fit us for perfect rest above;
And help us this and every day
To live more nearly as we pray.

John Keble (1792-1866)

Beneath this simple lyric lies profound wisdom. Read the prayer again. God’s mercies are found in the midst of the mundane and even the undesired moments of our day, a new supply each morning. Where have you failed to notice his loving hand at work? Take heart! Though we fail to see, we can never fail to be seen.

When are you most aware of God’s presence?

Photograph by Mary Ellen Armbruster

Sabbath Quiet: Wisdom

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

Let nothing ever grieve thee, distress thee, nor fret thee, heed God’s good will. My soul be still, compose thee.

Why brood all day in sorrow? Tomorrow, will bring thee God’s help benign and grace sublime in mercy.

Be true in all endeavor and ever ply bravely; what God decrees brings joy and peace, He’ll stay thee.


Paul Fleming, German Poet (1609-1640) Set to music by Johannes Brahms in 1856.

Photograph of ruins, Delphi, Greece by Kimberly Hanson