Year of Mercy: Mercy and Faith

Having used Pope Francis’ writing ‘The Face of Mercy’ (and related resources) to stimulate my meditations for much of this year, I want to conclude this Year of Mercy with some posts that are rooted in my own thoughts.  If I went back over my previous reflections, I suspect most of what I will be saying in the next few weeks I have previously said.  But not having the time to engage in that review, I offer you these closing thoughts, using the three things that Paul said abide:  faith, hope, and love.

With respect to faith, to speak of mercy is to recognize the primacy of grace.  To say it another way, we tend to represent God the way we have experienced God.  We tend to offer mercy to the extent that we have received it.

For most of us, this ability and willingness to offer mercy does not come through a theology of grace, but rather from the ways we have (or have not) been offered grace through such delivery systems as parents, friends, associates, church, community, etc. This does not mean theology is irrelevant; it means that in everyday life we experience mercy from people–from what some call “lived theology”–what we might call doctrine with skin on.

I believe this is why David prayed for God to search his heart and thoughts (Psalm 139:24), because he knew that his wicked (Hebrew: hurtful) ways came from the inside.  So too does mercy.  We give what we have first received. 

If we have received grace, our faith will reflect grace, and our actions will manifest mercy.  But if we have not experienced grace, our faith will be shaped by some form of required performance (meritocracy), and our actions will create systems by which we have to prove to ourselves and to others that we deserve God’s mercy.

So, mercy flows from faith defined and directed by grace.  God, give us that grace so we can be those who show mercy.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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