Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Mercy is

‘People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.’ This was quoted to me by a friend who told me the story I am about to relate, as a way of understanding what happened. When I first heard the story, it brought to mind, rather, this saying of Jesus,

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:1-2

Now, it isn’t as though we believe in Christ because of His teachings: He was in most cases only restating what was already known as far as the tradition is concerned, and He was ‘preaching to the choir’ when He taught the Jews of His day, just as He is preaching to us.

We already know what He says is right, we already agree with it, and if we read the teachings of other ‘great men’ we will in most cases see that their teachings are no different, at least on the moral front. As for doctrines, Jesus teaches very few. He is more concerned with actions.

What can He mean by ‘in the same way you judge others, you will be judged’? Well, I think we all know what He means. Religious and irreligious, everyone knows from experience this is true. As soon as you open your mouth to criticize another, not long after ‘it catches up with you.’

My friend in Hokkaido told me the following story. For their daughter’s birthday, he and his wife took her on a special trip that culminated at a ski resort. As one of her birthday gifts they also presented her with a wonderful new camera.

At the ski lift, their daughter somehow lost the new camera and this upset my friend’s wife, who took her to task for it. After all, it was an expensive camera: she should have been more careful. I’m sure that everyone involved felt quite badly about it. Loss is loss.

Later that day, as she was enjoying the onsen, the Japanese bath, my friend’s wife discovered that her wedding ring was missing—she had lost it in the bath. You can imagine how embarrassed she must have felt, and how sorry for scolding her daughter. Loss is loss.

What we find in our lives is that this seems to operate as a law, just as Jesus says, and as popular sayings tell it, all deriving from the same source: what actually happens. Modern westerners intent on sophistication would say, ‘it’s all karma.’

But it isn’t all ‘karma’ and the eyes of our minds play tricks on us and make us see patterns where there are none, especially whenever our status in our own eyes can be elevated. The laws of cause and effect are not the ‘end all’ of existence. Instead, mercy is.

What happened in the real story I just retold? By the end of that day, both the lost camera and the missing wedding ring had been turned in to the resort staff, and my friend’s wife and daughter recovered what they thought they had lost. Yes, mercy is.

Mercy is, all that is waiting for us when we show mercy. After all, Jesus is right when He says, ‘How blessed are the merciful, for they shall have mercy shown them’ (Matthew 5:7). And, oops, yes, even when we have not been very merciful, we are often shown mercy.

Looking over our shoulders at all the times we seem to have escaped by the skin of our teeth, let us remember and give praise to our good and loving God, who has such care for us that He shows us mercy even before we show it to others.

Glory to Your forbearance, O Lord, glory to You!

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