By John Blase
James Boyd was the best Mercy player I ever saw. You’ve played Mercy before, right? Where you stand facing your opponent, reach out and interlock fingers, then when the “go” is spoken you and your opponent twist your hands upside down, trying with all your might to break the other guy’s fingers off at the knuckles? Yeah, essentially a scene from Call of Duty before Xbox came along.
There’s not a lot of strategy in this game. It is pure strength and will. At some point either you or your opponent will swear tendons are ripping apart, and the weaker player will yell, “Mercy.” But the reality of schoolyard games is sometimes the stronger player will not immediately release. In these cases mercy does come, but it comes slow. You essentially have to beg for it. I remember seeing boys on the ground reduced to tears, pleading.
James could beat everyone else in our grade, except me. We’d always tie, if there is such a thing in Mercy. But it was a grade-school fact that when other boys would challenge James (and always lose), he would release as soon as the other boy cried out. I wondered about this, until the day I saw James playing this game with some much older boys, boys almost men. They would best James and when he asked for “Mercy” they’d make him grovel. In a sort of reverse parable, my friend knew the power of mercy because he’d not been shown mercy. My friend James did unto others as he wished others would’ve done to him. James was golden like that.
In the story that Jesus tells Peter, the servant was shown mercy by the master but then turned around and acted unmercifully toward a peer. He put the screws to his “fellow servant” and finally threw him in jail. When word of this nonsense finally reached the master, well, let’s just say the story didn’t end so happily ever after.
We learn the power of mercy by having it given or withheld. That’s the reality of schoolyards, and life. Jesus promises a blessedness to our lives if we extend mercy swiftly, without question. Such behavior only truly comes from gratitude. It comes from a thankfulness resulting from our ongoing grappling with the depths of our sin and its collateral damage, as the beautiful word “Mercy” is cried out not by us, but by our Master, once and for all, and again and again. Jesus is golden like that.
Written By John Blase