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The Power of Mercy


It takes great power to show  mercy.

Remember what Schindler said about mercy to the German commandant, Amon in Schinder’s List? Amon was trying to impress Schindler with his power,  “They fear us case we have the power to kill arbitrarily.”

Schindler responds with a discussion about killing a man when he commits a crime, “That’s not power though that’s justice. That’s different then power. Power is when we have every justification to kill and we don’t.”

Schindler describes a scene of a man who is guilty and knows he is going to die.  He throws himself on the ground and begs for mercy because he knows he’s going to die.

When you pardon that condemned man, when you show him mercy, “That is power,” said Schindler.

Amon then goes on to show mercy to some of the Jews in the camp (which was Schindler’s hope after all!).

Reflecting on Psalm 51 and the words mercy, kindness and compassion used in verses 1 and 2.

The request is for God’s mercy–chanan,  a “beneficient action freely offered or received”. Chanan “contributes to the well-being of another or to the health of an ongoing relationship” (such as to the poor or oppressed).  God gives favor and “his favor is rooted in his disposition to show favor” (not because we deserve it!)

Mercy can be requested because God is kind–chesed which is translated in many different ways–lovingkindness, loyal love, faithfulness.  In all of its meanings, it has a strong relational aspect.   Like chanan above, chesed often “describes the disposition and beneficient actions of God toward his faithful.”    Chesed is shown because of a covenental relationship; it is deliverance or protection by a superior party and it is shown in the “context of a deep and enduring committment between two partners.”

What I found very interesting was the following statement: Chesed saves people from disasters or oppressors.  Even though it provides eventual salvation, it “does not eradicate the anxiety of the endangered while they await deliverance.”  And so the dynamic is as follows: “one must discover God’s loyal love all over again at each new crisis.”

We can also request mercy from God because of his compassion–racham.  Something that goes beyond what ought to be given.  Racham is the grounds for a prayer for mercy and forgiveness.  “It is a warm compassion which goes the second mile;” “which is ready to forgive sin” and which replaces “judgement with grace.”

Out of God’s kindness and compassion, He is able to powerfully bestow mercy on us.

How have you shown mercy to someone this week?

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  1. June 10, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    Thank you Rauch for bringing Schindler’s incredible courage to mind! I love the concept, practice and power of Mercy. It is the heart’s step up from Justice…complete proof of the presence of the Divine as far as I can see! – Amy

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