I am a collector of great quotes and phrases.
I wish I could hire someone to go through all my notebooks, electronic files, and random pieces of paper to organize these jewels so I could more easily retrieve them instead of always having to search for them.
But some of them stick in my head and here are three favorites on the same topic:
- “mercy won’t be rationed here” — a line from a great song called, Ring the Bells, by Johnnyswim
- “the quality of mercy is not strained, it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven…” Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
- “blessed are the merciful” Jesus, Matthew 5:7
The first two quotes say nearly the same thing — mercy is a free flowing thing, not stingy or strained. Shakespeare went on to say that a person is like God when mercy seasons justice.
In what we call the beatitudes, Jesus said the merciful are among the blessed. By calling them blessed he was saying ‘God is for you.’ That brings up a question for those of us who follow Jesus.
If God is for these people, shouldn’t we be too?
We get a new angle on the beatitudes if we think of them not as statements about what we should aspire to, but as statements about people — the poor, the mourning, the merciful, etc. — people God is for. God stands with them. So again, the question, if God is for them, shouldn’t we be for them too?
Nadia Boltz Webber, a preacher in Louisville gives a modern description of some of the merciful who walk among us. She writes:
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are those who make terrible business decisions for the sake of people. Blessed are the burnt-out social workers and the overworked teachers and the pro-bono case takers. Blessed are the kids who step between the bullies and the weak. Blessed are they who delete hateful, homophobic comments off their friend’s Facebook page. Blessed are the ones who have received such real grace that they are no longer in the position of ever deciding who the “deserving poor” are. Blessed is everyone who has ever forgiven me when I didn’t deserve it. Blessed are the merciful for they totally get it.
In pronouncing blessings on these merciful, Jesus is being Jesus, showering his blessing and God’s blessing freely over the people in the world whose compassion is risky and tiring.
In this time of Covid and courageous conversations about racial inequity, we see many people who are working relentlessly for the good of others. Their mercy blesses all of us. And God is for them. May we be too. May we show them respect and honor, may we give thanks for their great efforts and do what we can to support their work.