Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalm 23:6)
These last lines of Psalm 23 represent the covenant promise God made with Israel and – by extension, through his death and resurrection – to all Christians through Jesus.
Goodness and Mercy. Good is one of the first words as children that we learn, as we are constantly being told from toddler-ship onward by our parents whether or not our behavior is “good” or “bad.”
Sharing our toys with other children: good. Touching a hot stove or an electrical socket: bad.
As we grow older, the list gets longer and increasingly complicated, especially as “relativism” in social conditioning comes into play.
If I am not hurting anyone else, I can’t be doing something bad, right?
How seldom we count ourselves as being hurt by our own actions in that hypothesis.
Yet Jesus offered a very simple and straightforward way to measure whether or not what we choose will be a good thing or a bad one:
“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)
He didn’t leave self-consideration out, did he? No, Jesus told us to use as our measure the Golden Rule of how we ourselves would want to be treated.
So before we make decisions we know will surely impact someone else’s life, we must first ask: If someone were to do to me what I am about to do to this other person, would I be hurt by it?
If the answer is “yes,” the first obvious response is “then don’t do it.”
But if for some reason it is a thing that still must be done, then it should be done with as much kindness and delicacy as possible. Being merciful, as God is merciful to us.
For there is no way to hurt another without causing self-injury too. Whether we recognize it or not, hurting others leaves a scar on our hearts and in our psche’s as well as on the other person’s.
Sometimes the scar is minimal, hardly noticeable or felt.
At other times, it is a terrible pain that makes it feel all is shattered and beyond repair.
Because we are not God, with this shattering hurt we do not see that kindness will have any healing effect. But because God’s mercy is all-powerful, he can heal us, if we let him.
Again, this doesn’t mean we won’t bear the mark that something bad has happened. Resurrected in all his glory, Jesus still bore the wounds that bound him to the cross.
But for Thomas, the Doubter, the ability to touch Christ’s wounds became the foundation of his faith.
When we are willing to share our pain and suffering with others, show we have endured and even begun to heal, we give them hope that they can as well. In this way we live out our call as disciples.
So ironically, bearing our wounds for others to see is a good thing; hiding them away and pretending they don’t exist is not.
And so goodness proceeds from the bad.
Because as promised:
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)