Mercy is threaded throughout scripture is the very cornerstone of our faith. It is mentioned 267 times in the King James translation of the Bible and is the very foundation of the character of God and His love for us. Not only is God merciful to us — we are called to be merciful to others.
Mercy seems to be in very short supply these days. Because of this, it feels as if a very heavy spiritual weight has fallen upon humanity. Where has our mercy gone? There are many threads that are woven together that have created a tapestry that sorely appears void of mercy. These are threads that are rooted in nothing less than human evil — another word and concept threaded throughout scripture.
My heart has been tormented, yes, tormented by the images I have seen recently that have not only affected our city but our world. Certainly, these are images that were not birthed in a moment, but through the course of time. I am heartbroken that anyone would be mistreated, abused and not given mercy, as in the case of what happened to Mr. George Floyd. If it were not so, I would not have been devoted to prison outreach and criminal justice reform for the past 25 years.
Yet, I am also heartbroken that there are those who would take advantage of an already emotionally charged situation to fuel the fire with anger, violence and destruction. Seeing cities and neighborhoods being unjustly damaged, ransacked, looted and set afire is not justice nor does it honor anyone’s memory. It is simply criminal. To be clear, these are not the acts of peaceful protestors or even protestors fired up with righteousness, but the acts of those who are now being sought for the crimes they committed.
When did we come to believe that our hearts and souls had boundaries? When did we come to believe that we did not have enough compassion for all? When did we come to believe that to harm others would somehow justify and ease our own pain?
Now I will once again connect these soul wounds to the very root of this answer. Evil. The workings of the darkness. We know very well that there are legions in our midst. Unseen warfare. Legions whose very mission and purpose is to cause division among God’s children. Legions whose very mission is to plant the seeds of hatred in our hearts. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
Darkness divides. Light unites. In the very moment we witness division and mercilessness we can be rest assured from where it originates. And we must be vigilant to not allow it to move into our own hearts like a raging storm and instead seek the stillness that only the Lord can provide. “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10).
In the very moment we are witness to cruelty we must speak. We must act. We are in a virtual age, an age where soundbites replace the totality of what someone said. An age where countless bystanders videotape cruelty and post it to social media as opposed to intervening. The crises of humanity are not entertainment — they are real and tangible.
I will never forget standing outside barefoot and watching the home where I was living burn to the ground because it was set on fire — arson. A crowd gathered behind us and began to loudly speculate on our lives. Or the time when I was assaulted in New Jersey during a store robbery and no one came to my aid, even after the assailant left the building. Or the lack of mercy given to me by a childhood friend who took cruel advantage of my trust and innocence for his own selfish gain as an adult.
Mercy: Mercy has not been removed from God’s word, nor from God. But, little by little and at times abruptly and with great force, mercy is being removed from our hearts, our communities and our lives. And this is a great tragedy. We believe that we will be judged by our sinfulness. Rest assured, our lack of mercy is also sinful.
We must claim our birth right. Our birth rite to be mercy givers and justice seekers. To care for the welfare of others and not only others who look like us and think like us and share our religious or political views. When we see the world, we must know that neither our love nor mercy nor tears are rationed but an endless cup that continually be filled. For all. Everywhere. Everyday. Every single time, from now until eternity.
Jackie Morfesis has a BFA in fine arts, MA in liberal studies and teacher certification from Rutgers University. She held a Rotary Scholarship to Greece in the arts and humanities. An artist, poet and educator, she is a Greek Orthodox Christian and involved with prison ministry in the Charleston area.