Reuben said to his brothers, “Shed no blood.” – Genesis 37:22

Jesus said, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” – Luke 6:36


Upstairs in a Galveston building being renovated by the Galveston Historical society. Photo taken December 3, 2016.

I have no heart for politics. The battlefield is too brutal. The lines are poorly and inaccurately drawn. The tactics are too ruthless. This was especially true in last year’s Republican primary and general election processes. Things were said that were harsh, untrue, unkind, hurtful, and defamatory. With few exceptions this was true of every candidate.

Several years ago I was involved in a political effort to prevent the state of Arkansas from instituting a lottery. The group of pastors with whom I met were schooled by a political expert who simply said, “Like it or not, elections are won by negative campaigning. You’ll have to go negative to beat this thing.” We did that. And in that case I have a clear conscience. The tactic was not to call out those who play the lottery sinners, but to point out that the lottery appeals to those who can least afford it. It’s a tax on the poor.

Sometimes mercy looks like that: speaking out against those who oppress the poor; defending those who cannot speak for themselves.

More often, however, mercy looks like putting away the sword, backing off the attack, letting up on the pursuit of an enemy. Mercy is different from grace – though they are cousins of compassion. Grace is giving someone something he or she does not deserve. Mercy is relieving someone’s pain, not pushing for complete annihilation.

God is both gracious and merciful. His is also full of both grace and truth.We’ve all been in dark hours in our lives, straying from God’s ways. Thank God for his forgiveness and mercy! Our calling is to be like him. Though we may never fully meet his perfect standard, we can rejoice in his mercy to us, and seek however we can to reflect his mercy to others.

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