7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. (Matthew 5:7 NIV)
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “mercy” as “kind or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly.” I’ve thought about “mercy” time and time again during the past week. It all started last week when I listened in as the family members of those killed at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston spoke to Dylann Roof at his bond hearing. Felicia Sanders. Alana Simmons, Anthony Thompson, and others all spoke of their forgiveness for the man who intentionally, willfully, took the lives of their loved ones who had welcomed him into their church. Mercy, not vengeance.
I heard an interview on television in the days that followed where someone asked, “How could this happen in a house of worship, the house of God?” That’s a great question, but I’d rather think about the stark contrast of how those in “God’s house” responded compared to those who have suffered in other high profile injustices on the “streets.” From the streets we see marching, looting, burning, and demands for justice. From the house of God we hear the voices of the grieving offering forgiveness through tears. When was the last time you heard the cry for mercy and forgiveness coming from the streets?
The stories coming out of Charleston remind me of another story that took place on October 2, 2006 when a gunman, Charles Roberts, barged into an Amish school, tied up 11 girls, killing 5 of the girls who ranged in age from 6-13. How did the families respond? They didn’t march in the streets. They didn’t get “lawyered up.” They marched, but they marched to the Robert’s home and ministered to his family. A grandfather of one of the little girls, on the afternoon of the killing, expressed his forgiveness for Charles. At Charles’ funeral the Amish families were there to express their condolences to his family.
What’s really interesting is that Charles Roberts killed because he was angry over the death of his daughter ten years earlier. He had never forgiven God. Yet, when he killed 5 innocent Amish girls, God’s people forgave him. Mercy trumps justice every time. “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36 NIV)