Name the conversation, name the argument, name the cultural debate, name the outrage, and then ask yourself, what role does mercy play in it?
All summer, I’ve been following the migrant parent-children separation. Despite the upheaval, judge’s orders, the reunifications are still ongoing and as the end of July about 700 children have still not been reunited with their parents. Then there are the stories of neglect and heartbreak of many children who cannot be reunited because their parents have already been deported. A podcast I recently listened to told the story of two siblings under the age of 10 who were to be reunited with their mother. However, upon arriving to that holding facility, they discovered their mother had already been deported and are now separated. All of this is just unimaginable to me.
While it’s challenging to know what is exactly true, this entire scenario is incredibly lamentable. I’ll save my political rhetoric for either offline or for another time but from a moral perspective, I remain surprised, startled, and at times, angered, when I imagine what these children and their parents must be going through. As one who believes a better world is possible, I believe we must do better and may we move forward by asking, “where is the mercy?“
Between looking at the current headlines and conversing with concerned people, I keep thinking about how we got here. The first post acknowledged the tensions concerning the such debates and attempted to give a few takeaways for Christ-followers (you may want to go back and read later). And the biggest takeaway has been reflecting on the role of mercy as it pertains to the migrant child-separation debate, as well as many of our other cultural concerns, as well as many of our personal ones.
Talking about mercy gets tricky because if you are not careful, you can come across judgmental towards those you believe lack mercy. But one can also come across as merely virtue-signaling in their demonstrations or calls for showing mercy. I think most of us have been troubled by the experience when mercy was not shown by the person or community that talked so passionately about it. And dare I say, some have probably been disappointed with us for our lack of mercy showing. This likely includes you, my dear reader, as well. In a society where the benefit of the doubt is harder to find, we all need to be careful of how we talk about mercy and this seems to be a fair point to acknowledge.
So let’s begin by saying we all have our blindspots of mercy. What are these blindspots? Well it probably has to do with certain people demographics and people in specific situations and roles.
We ought to ask ourselves …
… who are the people that tend to not receive our benefit of the doubt?
… who are the people who tend to get our blame?
… who are the people that get the credit and who are the opposite or the rival of them?
The answers to these questions might help us uncover our biases, our prejudices, our assumed loyalties, and our blind spots of where we often lack mercy.
In our more self-reflective moments, we might see that we are all inconsistent with our mercy. It’s ok to admit this. If you were perfectly merciful then you’d be God. (It’s ok that we’re not, it just wasn’t our calling to be divine).
But for the sake of argument, I suggest that these blindspots, these inconsistencies, are very much a part of our humanity and that only God can be perfectly merciful. However, this broken reality does not excuse us from trying to be more consistent. In fact, that’s the thing – we need more consistency, and we can begin by uncovering our blinds spots. We need others to point them out and others might rely on us to point out theirs. It will only work if we pursue such an endeavor in love, and for those who identify as Jesus-followers, we need to be rooted in prayer, depending on God’s strength as we have been called to this and more.
As we continue to endure this season that has stopped extending the benefit of the doubt to one another, may we reclaim the need to have and show mercy. And as we process our frustrations, our outrage, our longings for justice, may we also look deep within our hearts and confront our mercy blindspots. In removing the planks from our eyes, we will not only gain credibility with each other, but together we’ll see the needed steps ahead to forge through this complicated and ever-changing world.