In his description of the characteristics of Kingdom people that we’ve been looking at over the past few weeks, for me, the most challenging to talk about is mercy. What is mercy?
To be merciful implies that we’ve been wronged, or at least we judge that we have been wronged, and we are holding back from delivering what we judge the other to ‘owe’ us or what we judge they deserve. To be merciful, full of mercy, means I choose to set my judgement aside and to respond to the situation in love and compassion.
Pope Francis says that “mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope.”
Mercy offers hope: the confident hope that God’s love is greater than the worst thing any of us has ever done, the courageous hope that God’s love is stronger than my anger and my need for retaliation or revenge. When I choose to be merciful, God’s love grows stronger in me rather than the bitterness and pain that would grow if I choose anger. And the deeper I open myself up to God’s love, the more love I have to give and the more mercy I can show.
Eugene Peterson uses the word care in The Message: when we are full of care, we are cared for. When we choose mercy, kindness, compassion, love, when we take care to be like Jesus, we are not only caring for the other but for ourselves. Jesus cautions religious folks not to just put on the outward appearance of being good but to tend to the inside of their cup as well.
These descriptions of God’s Kingdom that Jesus gives aren’t for us to throw around like a weapon as a form of judgement on others’ behavior, but the vessels from which we are nourished in the goodness of God so that we are continually formed and transformed as God’s beloved. These are the instruments that equip us to live and love on earth as in heaven, Kingdom people to whom mercy has been given.