The POWER of Mercy
8 The LORD abhors the sacrifices of the wicked,
but the prayer of the upright pleases him.
29 The LORD is far from the wicked,
but he hears the prayer of the righteous.
9 The one who turns away his ear from hearing the law,
even his prayer is an abomination.
I entitled this series “The Power of Mercy,” yet so far I have focused on the need for mercy and the price of mercy. The main mention of power was that of obtaining forgiveness of sins, which will obviously be useful in the next life. But there is power in being forgiven even in this life, as is indicated above. The proverbs above imply that prayer works better for those who are righteous. For those of us whose righteousness leaves something to be desired, there is forgiveness. Jesus said as much in the following two scriptures:
23 So then, if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,
24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother and then come and present your gift.
25 Reach agreement quickly with your accuser while on the way to court, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the warden, and you will be thrown into prison.
26 I tell you the truth, you will never get out of there until you have paid the last penny!
25 Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you your sins."
Note that there are two aspects of forgiveness mentioned: physical forgiveness through the legal system and forgiveness within the heart. Unless Jesus is being metaphorical in the first passage, spiritual action alone is insufficient.
I cannot claim that you will get miraculous answers to your prayers if you follow the guidelines above. There are other aspects of prayer, and I claim no special expertise on the subject. But it does appear to be an important factor.
There are other benefits of mercy that are more readily observed. The safety and prosperity of our nation would be greatly enhanced through the proper application of mercy. The War on Drugs has clogged our legal system, encouraged real crimes and created an international black market used to fund terrorists worldwide. By making prostitution illegal instead of strictly regulated, sexually transmitted diseases have been spread to a greater degree. Making needle exchange programs illegal has compounded the problem by spreading AIDS among heroin users. And yes, we would benefit from applying some of the principles found in God’s Welfare System as well.
Lack of mercy over the centuries has tainted the image of Christianity. After Constantine, the Church went from being persecuted to being persecutor. This has provided moral ammo for non-Christians to this day. By forcibly demanding conversion to Christianity, the Church ended up recruiting members who were not Christian in their hearts. This allowed pagan elements to filter into Christian worship traditions: Christmas trees, Easter eggs, and assorted pagan holidays renamed as saints’ days. The Church would have been better off allowing the heathen to stay outside until they were ready to change.
So why did the Church violate the principles of mercy so many times throughout history? Methinks the answer boils down to some related theological errors. These are explored in The Narrow Gate.