Thursday 21 March

 12So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.

13For judgement will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgement.

Some of the instructions in “The Letter of James” sound harsh and uncompromising. Much of the New Testament sets a standard for human behaviour that seems wildly unrealistic and unachievable.

But in 2:13, James invokes the simple practice of “mercy”. The Greek word eleos means “kindness” or “good will.” It is not actually all that difficult to be “kind.” “Good will” is an achievable goal in most situations.

I am able to intend to bring goodness rather than harm into your life. It is possible for me to want what is best for you and to seek actively to promote your well-being. This is “mercy.”

The opposite of “mercy” is “judgement.” “Judgement” looks at the other and sees the other as lacking. “Judgement” demands that the other change before being deemed acceptable.

“Mercy” does not draw lines or create enemies. It embraces the other with openness and welcome, even when the other is difficult and awkward.

When I approach you preceded by my demand that you change, I will always do violence to you. My expectations are an intolerable burden. I do not know what it is like to live inside your life. I do not know what forces have made you into the person you have become. So, I have no right to demand that you be different than you are in order to satisfy my needs.

“Mercy” looks at you and chooses to believe that, given the realities of your circumstances, you are doing the best you can.

Mercy helps me discover within myself the “law of liberty” by which I find the freedom to live from the depths of my being. In this place I understand that, my expectations and judgements do not help you change; they do not open space for you to discover the possibilities that reside deep in your being.

When I practice “mercy” it begins to become possible for us both to enter into the rhythm of kindness and goodness that is our true nature.