A friend of mine from Chicago recently was approached by a homeless person who asked my friend if he would buy him a one-day CTA Pass. The homeless person said he was a vet and was struggling with VA red tape. The pass was $10 and my friend paid it. But he’s been wondering… was he just tricked? Did this person just “con” my friend?
These questions really struck me as I sometimes ask myself the same thing. I want to be “merciful” – that is, I have power to help someone and I want to exercise that power to do so. That’s mercy. Here at the church I am, on occasion, asked by strangers to pay for something for someone in need. And while I have a good “BS-Meter,” I too sometimes ask myself those same questions. As a steward of your generosity, I want to make sure that any funds through the Ministerial Discretionary Fund I give are given for a good reasons and used wisely. I ask appropriate questions and whenever possible, I have checks made out to organizations. I also listen to my intuition. And I try very hard not to let fear rule my decisions. All in all, I try to err on the side of mercy. That is, I prefer to give without judgment. I think that sometimes we are so focused on justice, that desire to be “fair” to everyone, that we forget about mercy. Mercy, I think, is a gift, one that is unearned, and often it is undeserved.
Thomas Aquinas once said “Mercy without justice is the mother of dissolution; justice without mercy is cruelty.” The tensions between mercy and justice are never easy to discern, but I believe we are called to try.