I wouldn’t say that the school yard I grew up in was any crueler than any other. Being “big for my age” might make you think that I could strut around the place without fear. When in fact my size made me a target. Any kid wanting to make a name for himself might pick a fight with me. I learned early in life that I couldn’t take a punch. My only effective strategy was to wrestle and pin my opponent until he said that magic word, “Uncle!”
I loved the word “uncle,” not because it heralded my victory but it was my opportunity to show mercy to another human being. To be honest, I’m not sure I really knew the word “mercy” back then, but I certainly knew the feeling.
It might be fatal for the word “justice” that it is used so frequently when “revenge” is meant. Recently, I heard the words justice and injustice used in the same conversation and I realized that they ought to be antonyms (having the opposite meaning). But they’re not really. Justice is so tinged with revenge or even victory that if we want to maintain a biblical sense for the word justice we need to start using the word mercy.
Mercy carries with is a sense of forgiveness, of healing and restoration. Mercy is not about feeling sorry for someone else’s plight, it is about doing something to relieve, heal and save someone from their situation. When mercy is granted there are no winners or losers – just friends, just us.
If I didn’t show mercy to the boy who cried, “Uncle,” I would have been the villain. When we fail to show mercy we are the villains. Mercy is the path to the biblical sense of justice.