What do you deserve?
But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
I read a lot of rants on Facebook and hear many more on television. Many people are angry. And it seems that spouting off insults on posts, interviews, or in debates, makes them feel better, somehow. They can complain about the smallest, most trivial things, or about much bigger and more serious problems – and, yet, the tone seems to remain the same. Some people are genuinely discontent, and rightfully so, and they raise their voices seeking for justice. But, too often, those quests for justice just sound like so many people being mad and fuming about it.
It looks like all the world, and yes, that includes me, indulges in angry pleasures.
Why? Why do we make demands with steel in our eyes and fire in our words? Why are we so bothered with other people’s small inconsiderations that we feel compelled to type it out in a message to all of our friends and acquaintances? Why are we drawn to people who use tough and mean language with their fingers pointing, people who tell us over and over again that we deserve more, that we deserve better? Why do we continually find fault in others when we are discontent, blaming other people, organizations, or groups when we aren’t getting what we want?
Do we even know what we want?
“I shouldn’t have to pay this much for cable television, it’s ridiculous – who’s profiting from that?!”
“Why do I have to stand in line forever to upgrade my cell phone – don’t these people know that I have a life?!”
“How come that person on government assistance has a new gaming system and I don’t? That’s not fair!”
“How come that rich person gets to vacation in exotic places and I don’t? That’s not fair!”
“How come people who enter this country illegally are getting free healthcare while I have to pay these huge co-pays for mine?! They’re ruining this country!”
“Why do people get upset when we call cops/CEOs/Democrats/Republicans pigs – don’t they know that none of them give a damn about real people?! They’re selfish monsters!”
“Why do people get offended when we call Muslim people terrorists – weren’t the people who attacked us and killed thousands of Americans Muslim, doing it in the name of their religion?! They all want to kill us!”
Okay, some of those lines that I’ve made into quotes are controversial, I know. But… Don’t we just seem to love controversy? Doesn’t it seem like people enjoy stirring the pot of discord and conflict? Protesters and politicians looking to get some air time and notoriety, being as loud and brash as they possibly can be in order to tear others down – as long as they can stand tall on the rubble with their microphones, megaphones, and fingers pointing down?
And, yes, that’s my rant for the day. I am guilty. And I’m not proud.
What are we supposed to do with all of this? Obviously, there is injustice in the world, in our own country, and, yes, in our own homes. But, the injustice has nothing to do with material things. If what we want is more and better material things, then we will always be discontent. We will always want more and never be satisfied. We will be breeding discord and anger, not only in our streets and world, but also in our own hearts. We will be trying to satisfy a real and deep hunger with fantasy food and poison.
Possessions can never make you happy. Nothing can make you happy. You either choose to be open to joy and to receive it into your heart – or you spend your life looking for where you are lacking in stuff, where you are being shortchanged.
Jesus knew the deepest and truest joy. He did not doubt Infinite Love. His hope was strong in the beatific vision. But, yes, it’s true – even he was angry. Even he mourned. Even he was tempted to run from suffering. Did he not whip the money changers out of the Temple? Did he not sorrow that he could not gather all of God’s people into his embrace? Did he not sharply chastise Peter for speaking aloud the thought that he, Jesus, should be above suffering? Being fully human, this is what we would expect. But, this is not how Jesus chose to live his life every day. These were moments of justified anger, very real sadness, and very real fear. As human beings, we also experience these moments in our own lives. But, to truly imitate Christ, we will not let the anger, sorrow, or fear overwhelm us, overriding our faith, hope, and love.
For Jesus is mercy. The heart of Christ, the heart of Christianity, is loving forgiveness. That’s what makes following Christ such a difficult and daily challenge for us. If we could simply recite our way into joy, into goodness and righteousness, then we would only have to tick off our prayers and memorize pages of Scripture. But, what does that have to do with mercy? If we cannot forgive our housemate for being sloppy, or our family member for being forgetful, or our friend for being irritable, then how can we call ourselves Christians?
If we cannot mercifully consider all of the complicated aspects of another person’s life, especially a person who has done us a gravely serious wrong, then why do we think that we deserve mercy?
Perhaps, the problem is that we don’t want mercy. Not really. We want justice. We demand justice. We believe that, if everything was taken into account, then the columns would add up in our favor and we would be proven to be superior and deserving of better things. We believe that the facts in evidence show that we are the righteous ones, we are the ones living lives deserving of every pleasure and privilege. We don’t believe that we need mercy at all. We think that we don’t need to be forgiven – so why on earth should we forgive anyone else?
I can’t argue out an explanation of why. This is not a matter for systematic debate, the scoring of points, or even the cold application of reason. This is a matter of honest, gutwrenching truth. I am a sinner. You are a sinner. We are sinners. I don’t deserve anything that I have. The possessions that I own and the good people in my life who treat me well do not exist because of justice. If everyone lived only according to merit, then I know that I would be alone. I would be naked and afraid. I would hunger and thirst and never be satisfied.
I don’t want to live in a just world. I want to live in a merciful world. Because that is the world in which I live – you are not you because you fashioned yourself and goodness doesn’t exist because you deserve it. You are here because God wants you to be here. And every single person on the planet is here because God wants each and every person to be here. Whether you like it or not.
The point of the world isn’t to “like” some things and angrily comment about others, trying to be as loud as you can be. The point of the world is to be. Because God wants it to be. Tragically, human beings have never been satisfied with that. Human beings have always wanted something other than what they have. We separate ourselves from what God wants – that’s what sin is – and we turn the world into a place where there is, not only injustice, but also a horrible resistance to mercy. Most people who don’t let Christ into their lives do so because of this resistance to mercy. We don’t want to admit, to acknowledge, that we are sinners in need of forgiveness – and that that need of forgiveness is a need to forgive others as well as ourselves. Mercy is the reason that we exist, and mercy is the only true way to real joy. Everything else is a lot of noise… “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
© 2015 Christina Chase
 William Shakespeare: Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5