Matthew 5:7,9 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Racially charged incidents are apparently not uncommon in our local jail. A group of inmates illustrated this to me recently. In their story, they described a self-proclaimed white supremacist who made life fairly miserable for everyone on the pod as he had a loud mouth, often using derogatory racial terms from behind the safety of his cell door. A Cell Warrior, they called him. One day, he used a particularly offensive term regarding Eddie, one of the black men who attends our bible study. This greatly agitated Eddie’s friends, both black and white, who threatened the cell-warrior with great bodily harm when he came out of his cell.
Eddie did not get mad however. Eddie did what I could not have done. He took of his own very limited resources, bought a burrito out of the vending machine, microwaved it and slid it under the cell door of the loud-mouthed agitator. It is important to understand that in jail, a burrito was no small gift. It was however, apparently a magic burrito as the agitator later apologized to Eddie for his insult. I do not think the two became best of friends but after the burrito incident the tone of the man’s language changed significantly. Eddie, who would have been justified to carry hate and malice in his heart, chose instead to make peace.
Jesus said that those who are merciful will receive mercy and those who make peace shall be called the sons of God. It is however, so often much easier for me to harbor resentment and malice. When I am wronged, I am justified to wrong in return. When I am offended, I am justified in speaking and thinking evil of the offending person. Even if I never do anything directly to this person, I can assassinate with words and I can spend time and mental effort cursing him or her. What does this get me? Am I satisfied with my little revenge? Do I satiate my appetite for justice?
No, my indulgence of my flesh nature’s pride and twisted sense of justice does not better my position. Rather, it grows bitterness, resentment and anger in me. I do not grow the seeds of life but rather of my own destruction when I give in to my desire for revenge.
If, however, like Eddie, I choose to act in a manner completely contrary to my nature, I can make peace with those around me. Bitterness and resentment just proliferate the conflict. Kindness and mercy may not guarantee perpetual peace but when I choose kindness and mercy, I extinguish my role in conflict. When I choose to follow Jesus’ commands, I grow his life in me and I do my part to maintain peace. Like Eddie, I need to abandon my own resentments and follow Christ’s example of mercy and peace.