Loving kindness – O mercy

Google the term “loving kindness” and the first hits will take you to the Buddhist term ‘Mette’, one of the four Buddhist Brahma-vihara, high virtues, the practice of which is said to lead one to be more like the Buddha.

However a very similar term exists in Hebrew and is found throughout the Old Testament. Chesed חסד has two principal translations in the Old Testament: mercy (140 times) and lovingkindness (30 times) (references to the KJV). The word is used a lot in the Psalms, but the key text for me is this one in Micah:

This is what Yahweh asks of you:
that you act justly
that you love chesed
that you walk humbly with your God.
– Micha 6:8

One term, chesed חסד, covers what for us are two concepts: mercy, and loving-kindness. (In the latin Vulgate bible, Jerome chose misericordia, which means compassionate mercy: the pity, misereri, of the heart, cor). The quote from Micah juxtaposes mercy with justice. These two have always been balanced, something we see in the scales held by Lady Justice (Lustitia) who sits atop many court buildings in the Western world.

The scales of justice
The scales balance not only the two sides of the case, but also the requirements of justice and mercy. For whilst mercy without justice is the mother of dissolution, justice without mercy is cruelty (St Thomas Aquinas).

These words ring in my ears as we see the struggles of the Greek people. In a country of 11 million people, more than 300,000 children are now suffering from malnutrition (Unicef). Everyone knows the problems of the Greek nation: a corrupt oligarchy who pay little tax, whilst – not so well known – the ordinary people actually work the longest hours in Europe (OECD official figures). They have contributed to their own downfall. Nevertheless, when I hear German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble say: “Elections change nothing. Rules are rules”, my soul is pained and says: for pity’s sake.


~ by scalambra on February 27, 2015.

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