The ache of mercy


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

“Whenever there’s an injury to a relationship, a hurt, a broken heart, or even a broken thing, and you are willing to forgive, you are saying, “I got this. I’m going to pick up the bill for this.” This is, of course, precisely what God has done for us.”
― Brant Hansen, Unoffendable

To me the concept of mercy has always been a beautiful thing, something pure and holy and stunning- almost otherworldly really. Maybe for that very reason it felt distant to me; as distant as  the stars in space and the dark ages of time. It had yet to be something that I had truly or deeply felt as a raw, rugged or brave effort. In saying this, I am not saying that I was not aware of Christ and his ultimate mercy on my behalf, or my need of mercy in human relationships.  I am not saying I am a good person; anyone who has met me knows I am just as fallen as anyone else.  I am saying that recently I have failed and faltered more than ever before in my life and thus I have been in true dire need of forgiveness.  My soul has been made aware of a graceful mercy that is grander than I have ever known.

It is at this  undeserved and noble gift of human mercy that I am beginning to understand the ultimate mercy granted to me by my Father. While I knew of it, and knew in concept that I was lost without it, I didn’t ponder the expense of  this gift of mercy, the bravery it took to offer it,  or the humbling pain of receiving it; of needing it so deeply that my heart could burst. Mercy is a gift that always costs both the giver and receiver, always. Sure, most often it is just the slight heartbreak of a broken bowl or stepped-on toe, but what if the stakes are higher, and the pain is shattering? The greater the pardon, the deeper the cost to the giver, the more fierce the sacrifice of forgiveness, and the greater the weight that is lifted from the one who is pardoned.
In high school I remember the segment below in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, it has been with me since and the words I am even understanding to a greater depth now. Now I am in awe of mercy, and those who show mercy. I have come to believe that mercy is the most holy of all the qualities a human can poses.

“The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest. It becomes
The thronèd monarch better than his crown.
His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings,
But mercy is above this sceptered sway.
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings.
It is an attribute to God himself.
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew, Though justice be thy plea, consider this-
That in the course of justice none of us
Should see salvation. We do pray for mercy,
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea,
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence ‘gainst the merchant there.”

― William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice


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