The following is part of a series of articles.
It is a satire.
The idea behind this series is simple: What if Jesus and his "blessed" statements - his Beatitudes - were being "collaborated" on by a modern Christian Public Relations Consultant?
"Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy."
Well, well, well! Mercy is awesome! Seems like this might turn out to be our easiest collaboration of all! We'll see how it goes, but I think we're totally on the same wavelength here... Mostly... Pretty much... Maybe...
I would just remind you right from the start that I am always on board with the Let's not get too carried away principle.
That said, let's start with the good: I'm just a sinner saved by grace, man. I hold that over my head every day. And I need mercy all the time - especially from my smokin' hot wife! It's funny, 'cause often, I'm completely insensitive and unavailable at home, and she gets so frustrated! I tell the stories to my congregation. They think it's hilarious and cute how contentious our marriage is. So yeah, I'd say I'm very familiar with this one, Jesus. A mindset of compassion, a willingness to show pity, a posture of mercy... Not only is this stuff great at home, it can make for great sermon material as well! I know I have used it effectively many times.
In Evangelical circles, we like to define mercy as "not getting what you deserve." The thing is, while we talk about your mercy for us pretty much all the time, we comparatively never talk about our collective mercy as a people when it comes to how we respond to others.
If we do talk about our own need to be merciful, we prefer to keep it close to home. Like, literally close to home - as in solely within the home environment, where no one else can really see it or evaluate it. We all go through tough times with our families and friends, Jesus. People get hurt. And I'm with you there: Mercy is a great remedy in these cases.
At the same time, I know you don't expect us to champion something as anemic as compassion when it comes down to how we behave within our context of Americaland... right? I mean, when you want to say something powerful, doesn't it make the most sense to use power? Plus, at the national level, it's always easy to distance ourselves from the actions of our government any time that becomes the more convenient thing to do.
But why build a bridge when you can build a wall? We have it pretty good here. We strive to be model citizens in a nation that doesn't just give its enemies what we believe they deserve, but a whole lot more. We pay them back with interest, because that's how they know we mean business! The Jews thought of "an eye for an eye" as a limitation on punishment... We like to think of it more as a demand for escalation and retaliation. A way to one-up the aggressors and show them who's boss!
I'm just thankful that, amidst all of the institutionalized genocide, slavery and rape, our forefathers had the good sense to found the nation on Christian values! ...Ahh, simpler times. The good ol' days.
Our government may be built of people like us, and people like us might be the driving force behind its most ruthless policies of aggression and retribution (and even preemption and instigation), but come on. What else do you expect? Something markedly different? Do you expect that the one who's been forgiven much should love much? I think you'll understand my hesitation when it comes to being merciful at that level, because mercy is far too dangerous and reckless whenever it actually might cost us something to walk in it.
And for me to suggest that as a pastor? ...Let's just say that it's not something I want to be rocking the boat over, Jesus. I would lose my job.
So we keep it simple: We absolutely love that you're merciful to us... We just don't see what that has to do with how we relate to any other group of people, that's all. Other people can reap what they sow. The alternative is too scary.
Don't get me wrong, the mercy stuff is beautiful, and - like I said - I get some of my best material from it! But at the same time, it's also just like what you say about loving our enemies… entirely impractical and naive, and we don’t believe in its power to change enemies into friends anyway. So there's that too. I certainly wouldn't be caught dead thinking mercy was a good idea to show to more than one person at a time! And the idea that God is in solidarity with such people, declaring their way of being beautiful? Don't you think that's a bit much? The thing is, it implies a lot about everyone else. People could easily get the wrong idea and think God doesn't equally declare the ruthless and merciless "blessed" too... And then we'd have a lot of people unemployed, since being like that is what a lot of our best-paying jobs require!
And then you say the merciful will be shown mercy... but I'm not sure about that conclusion. It's a hard sell. I don't know much of anyone who's willing to put that to the test. It's not the sort of thing you want to risk leaving up to chance, you know? So we should definitely pull back on the intensity of what you're saying the result of mercy is. I think we can do better than just "more mercy," don't you?
So to recap - what I would add to what you're saying here is this: mercy is fine in our “individual lives” - to an extent - but I don't think we should be allowing it to inform our behavior as a group, even though that is how you’re saying it here. I'm not being inconsistent, either. In general, we've taken everything you spoke to us collectively and applied it solely to individuals. That's like our whole thing. It's more about consumers than community. It's how you went from being Lord of the nations and inaugurated king of the world to being a "personal lord and savior" and king of heaven and earth (but only once the world ends).
And I also don't think I would put much hope in our mercy helping to form merciful response from other people, because no one wants to be the first to try that out.
I saw somewhere else where you were upset with the Jewish scripture experts and religious leaders, and you were telling them how weird it was that they paid so much attention to things like tithing, but neglected the weightier and more important things... like mercy. I wanted to double check on that while we were on this subject, since I know you can't still be thinking that would apply to us... right? I'm so thankful I'm a Christian leader and not a Jewish one, and "It's not religion, it's a relationship," so none of that stuff applies to me. What a load off! Grace is so good!
For me, the bottom line is what it is. I'm all for mercy defining our human existence, and I know my congregation (and most Christians in general) would agree. We would love to live in a world free of violent escalation and legal retaliation and all the rest. We would love to live in a world where no one repaid evil for evil, and we all responded with mercy... We would love it. But the thing is, we don't really believe you. We don't really believe you that it can or should happen this side of eternity.
And so, we'll just have to wait for heaven, Jesus. And even if it could happen before then, it needs to start with someone else. Not us.
Anyway, let’s go with this instead:
#BLESSED are those who are merciful within the safe confines of their own individual lives and toward their own personal connections, for they will remain exempt from showing mercy as a community toward other peoples. And as they attempt to cultivate mercy only in their detached homes and very seldom as a community, they will yet wonder why other people continue to act aggressively toward them as a group when they're so individually decent, and they will continue to claim God is more merciful to them because they believed the right things and said the right prayers.
Alright, so maybe it wasn't as easy or quick a collaboration as I had first thought, but we got some great work done today! I will catch up with you later to help figure out this whole "pure in heart" thing.