Writing about the recent row over the decision by a Scottish court to allow the terminally ill Lockerbie bomber, Ali al-Megrahi, to die at home rather than in prison, Quaker writer Jill Segger (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/10119) cuts to the heart of the matter for those of us who would dare call ourselves Christians. “Mercy reflects God to us in a unique manner,” she says. “It invites us to share in the wholeness for which we were created. If we permit ourselves to become caught up in the power games between Holyrood, Westminster, Washington and Tripoli, we will miss the truth.”
The Seer stares long and hard at reality with all its agonising contradictions, but without losing sight of the deeper reality we call love. That is incredibly hard to do. Sinking to fashionable cynicism and resorting to realpolitik are much more acceptable paths, though we often pretend to decry them when it is convenient to us.
Scottish justice minister Kenny MacAskill is, in the eyes of many who see the world primarily through the lens of vengeance (either because of their suffering, or less creditably because of their worldview), a scoundrel or a fool. But there is surely genuine courage and insight in his way of trying to weigh the true odds: “Our justice system demands that judgement be imposed but compassion be available. Our beliefs dictate that justice be served but mercy be shown.”
Of course when we seek to act in the light of the Gospel’s way of seeing, we will not always know whether what we are doing is right. Sometimes we will mess things up. The facts and fallibilities of any given situation will always be questionable, ‘open to judgement’. What is most important is that we too are open to judgement, and that we are clear about the character of right-dealing tempered by mercy that lies at the heart of flesh which is God’s, made available to us in Christ and in the quality of community that bears his name.