This morning when I was doing some devotional reading, I was struck by a line from the morning prayer selection from the lectionary I use. As usual, some of the Psalms appear. And it was there in the 86th Psalm that I read these words about God. “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”
A different translation renders that first line, “And you, Lord, are a God of compassion.” I like this way of describing the nature of God. I trust it is true. There is a solace in not only believing in God, but also believing that God is a God of compassion. Another way to say it is to affirm that compassionate God is a merciful God.
I sincerely believe there are times and occasions where only compassion and mercy can rule the day. I am confident that God is and will be that compassionate and merciful Divine Being. I am not talking about death, judgment, and eternal life, although that often is the context for discussion of God’s compassion and mercy.
I know many of the biblical texts that discuss the judgment of human beings. Clearly, some passages do talk about life eternal. And no doubt, each one of us will die in due course. I am not worried about any of these---with the possible exception of death! I am willing to trust God in that ultimate process.
What I would prefer to do is not leave God to be compassionate and merciful only at my earthly demise. I think there is a significant---maybe even crucial---role for God’s compassion and mercy in the process of my living. I see a twofold role here.
On one hand I am in continual need of that Divine compassion and mercy. I am not perfect. Probably you are also not perfect. In a way compassion and mercy compensate for my lack of perfection. Of course, that does not get me off the hook of trying. It is imperative that I try to be just, loving, prudent and all the other virtues. I need to adhere to the Golden Rule and treat others as I would like to be treated. And I do try.
However, sometimes my trying is not enough. For whatever reason, I can fail God and I can fail other human beings. That kind of failure creates an opening for one of two possibilities: getting even…or getting compassion. We live in a world where the choice usually is made to get even! That response is both the source and resource of conflict, hatred, and mayhem. God models a different option: the compassionate response.
And this implicates the other role for God’s compassion and mercy. Not only do I hope to be the recipient of that Divine compassion, but I hope also to learn how to be an instrument of that Divine compassion and mercy. I want to enroll in the School of Divine Love in order to become steeped in the practice of compassionate living.
I am confident that if humans make it through this century, it will be because enough of us graduate from this School and figure out how to apply our learning. There are many venues to practice. We can practice on other people.
It is pretty easy to see openings where an act of compassion or a work of mercy will redeem something that is going wrong or coming up short. In my case is can be in the classroom, coffee shop, or committee meeting. Doubtlessly, your life context provides just as many opportunities.
Writing or talking about it is easy. So as the saying goes, “now it’s show time!”