I recently saw a picture of a baby with a large plaster over a gunshot wound to her back. She had a similar wound on her chest, as the bullet passed right through the baby and into her mother, who was killed. Her father, four of her siblings and about 25 other Christians in the village also died in the same attack on 16 May 2023 in Plateau State, Nigeria. The eight-month-old survived, although she will probably never be able to walk. Her name is Precious.
This example illustrates our world today – a world wracked by war, gratuitous violence and conflict; a world where problems are solved with a machete or a gun; a world where revenge and retaliation are normal; a world where the death of an enemy is never mourned. It is a world increasingly without humanity, forgiveness or mercy.
As we enter a new year in such a world, there is a sense of hopelessness. We see the innocent suffer and die, including our brothers and sisters in Christ. The family of baby Precious perished because they were Christians.
We see powerful forces unleashed against the weak and the vulnerable. We hear talk of “collateral damage” as if losing human lives to gain political/military ends is the obvious course of action. A generation of young adults, whose minds were shaped by computer games of bombing and shooting, is moving into leadership positions. Ideologies that are admired bring mayhem and destruction.
The Bible often tells us that our God is a God of justice and of mercy. Mercy is an action, rooted in compassion and forgiveness. One of the Hebrew words for “mercy” has to do with a mother who protects and sustains the unborn infant in her womb. What greater picture of mercy can there be? Mercy is not weakness, though the world may interpret it that way.
Jesus told a parable about an unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35), who was forgiven a huge debt by his master but would not forgive a small debt he was owed by a fellow servant. He physically attacked the man and then had him thrown into prison.
We know that the world often behaves like this, but what of us Christians? Are we any different? Our sins have been forgiven by a tremendous act of mercy when God sent His Son to die for us. Do we have mercy on our fellow sinners? Or do we use our positions of power to get revenge on those who injure us, causing endless pain and suffering, just as the world tends to do?
Mercy is an action, rooted in compassion and forgiveness
Jesus also said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7). Showing mercy is a Divine mandate.
Can we, who have received God’s mercy, be hard of heart, cold and indifferent? If the God of mercy had not looked mercifully on us, where would we be? So how can we join the chorus of those baying for blood without any thought of those who suffer? Should we not call for mercy, however unpopular that may make us? Should we not urge our churches, our statesmen, our militaries to be merciful? If not we will lose our own souls.
Every child, every woman and every man is created in the Divine image and is loved by God. Their lives are sacred and precious. But we are gradually being de-conscientised because of the violence we see on our screens, whether, real, fictional or virtual. If we lose our consciences, we lose our humanity.
Who can restore our lost souls and lost humanity but Jesus Christ Himself? It is only in Jesus Christ that perfect forgiveness, transcending hatred and enmity, is found. May He be our guide as we enter this new year.
DR Patrick Sookhdeo
International Director, Barnabas Aid