Mercy or Tolerance?

In reading the Divine Office this morning I am struck again at how often the psalms mention mercy. The mercy of God showers through not just the psalms but the Scriptures. We so often think of mercy in a legalistic way–that it simply means God will let us off the hook. In fact, Bl. Pope John Paul II said that “Mercy is Love’s second name.” God’s mercy is an outgoing characteristic–constantly flowing out towards us with blessing and forgiveness.

In contrast, I read an open letter from someone who disagreed with the recent apology put out by an Evangelical who ran a ministry that tried to heal people with same sex attraction through prayer. This Evangelical has changed the emphasis of his ministry to homosexual people and has made a public apology for his former tactics. The open letter by a homosexual was very grudging in its acceptance of the apology. There was no mercy and no forgiveness. At best there was a limited level of tolerance.

It struck me that mercy is so much bigger than mere tolerance. We may be tolerant of others, but what real good is that? It is really little more than an absence of bigotry and malice. Indeed, it is little more than indifference. “Can’t we all just get along?”

Mercy, on the other hand, reaches out to the other person in a pro active and positive way. Mercy is not simply forgiveness and letting someone off the hook. It is an active acceptance of the other person. It is an embrace. As Christians we should be merciful–not just tolerant. This should also be our attitude to people with same sex attraction. We treat them like we treat everyone else–with mercy.

This might sound like we are treating them like poor, miserable sinners. We are. That’s because we treat everyone as poor miserable sinners because that’s the reality of our human condition. To say otherwise is to be naive about ourselves and others. On the other hand, to truly accept this condition of our souls is to take a step into reality and wherever there is reality there is not just a bland tolerance, but real joy, peace and true confidence.

About Fr. Dwight Longenecker
  • Woody

    Would you accept Satan? Would you tolerate him? Would you show him mercy? Does evil exist on earth? If so, are we to show it tolerance and mercy?

  • TheodoreSeeber

    We can show all the tolerance and mercy we like, but in return, we should not expect anything other than martyrdom.

  • doughboy

    thank you for this, Father.


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