This post channels Bill Nolan channeling me. Bill is the pastoral associate at St. Thomas Apostle parish in Minneapolis. He shared the below in a newsletter to parishioners there. Given recent events, I thought it was worth sharing here as well.
|5 years ago, as part of our speaker series celebrating the “Year of Mercy,” my dear friend Susan Stabile spoke on the relationship between wisdom and mercy. Recent events have led me to feel an inexplicable, yet painfully difficult urge to review my notes on that presentation. Mercy has not been the first thing on my moral compass. Justice is what has been called for. Justice. JUSTICE!|
But that annoying little voice in my soul wouldn’t give up. So I did a computer file search for “Susan Stabile on Mercy” and there were my notes:
* Wisdom teaches us that justice – understood as “giving another their due” – is not enough. We are called to temper justice with mercy – giving to another in the spirit of agape love.
* The wisdom that calls us to mercy is not simply understanding, knowledge, or counsel. It is a discernment, a way of coming to experience not only what Christian love is, but how to love rightly. It reminds us that justice is “the right ordering of relationship.”
That would have been plenty. But then, as my notes reminded me, Susan upped the ante. She challenged us to accept that the ultimate correlation between wisdom and mercy lies in always trying to see the other as the beloved of God.
This is hardly a foreign concept in our faith tradition. In the beginning, God made humankind in the divine image, the writer of Genesis tells us. We are the very image of God, in our humanity. Thus, to see the other as also being the image of God ought to be the most authentically human experience in the world.
So…it ought to be an equally authentically human experience to say and believe the following:
Neighbor who fails to clean up what his dog left in my yard, you are the beloved of God… Driver who believes the stop sign at the corner is merely a suggestion, you are the beloved of God… Shopper who takes the last item off the shelf that was my sole purpose for going to the grocery store, you are the beloved of God… So much for the generic ones.
Brianna Taylor, you are the beloved of God… Daunte Wright, you are the beloved of God… George Floyd, you are the beloved of God… So much for the easy ones.
Brett Hankison, you are the beloved of God… Kim Potter, you are the beloved of God… Derek Chauvin, you are the beloved of God…
I have to be honest. I’m having serious trouble saying and believing all those statements. Does this mean I am lacking in the wisdom that leads to mercy? Well…in a word…yes. It does. I am.
But it doesn’t mean I quit trying. It doesn’t mean I give up on trying to separate what a person does from who a person is. The wisdom that leads to mercy does not condone sin; it acknowledges the sinner as beloved of God. The wisdom that leads to mercy does not mean that I should ignore the evil that is done in the world; it calls me to see every human person as capable of redemption, precisely because they are the beloved of God. The wisdom that leads to mercy does not ask me to turn a blind eye; it calls me to turn the other cheek.
Will I one day be able to say and believe all those statements as well? I don’t know. But I have to keep trying. So thank you Susan. And all the other voices that challenge me to love others as I have been loved and to see others the way God sees me. As Beloved.