The Joy of Clemency

People talk a lot about getting revenge. “Living well is the best revenge” is an oft-quoted literary expression, said wryly to conquer cynicism or to acknowledge the devil most don’t think exists.  People may not go all the way to revenge but they do talk about getting over past hurts.  They talk wistfully about being “resentment”- free.

There is a famous restaurant conversation, which goes like this.  Waiter approaches table.  You are eating a good meal slowly.  The waiter asks if you are still working on this.  You assure him that you were never working on this.  You were always delighting in this.  At a dollar a forkful, why wouldn’t you?

The get-over-resentment conversation is like this, too.  “I am really working on getting over my past hurts.”  When we have to work too hard on getting over resentments, or beyond revenge, we miss the boat. It is easier than you think.  There is a delight in showing clemency.  It is the delight God shows in forgiving us.  It is fun.  It is spacious.  It is generous.  It is slow, not pushed. Nor is it pushy.  When you speak to that waiter, you speak with a smile in your voice.

I’ll never know why attachment to resentment or revenge is so strong in us.  It does not delight us and it does self-punish.   As Lillian Daniel said to me just recently, resentment is drinking rat poison and hoping the rat dies.  Why would anyone do that?  Especially when the joy of clemency is ours to give and to receive.

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of your possession? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in showing clemency. He will again have compassion upon us; he will tread our iniquities under foot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will show faithfulness to Jacob and unswerving loyalty to Abraham, as you have sworn to our ancestors from the days of old. (Micah 7:18-20)

Jesus, you who showed us the path beyond revenge and resentment, teach us to delight in clemency, for those who murder, those who abuse, those who steal, those who work at their meals, those who rush us–and help us to do so in large and small ways.  Amen.

– by Donna Schaper, from StillSpeaking

BP is in the Bible! (OK, Not Specifically…)

I had to share this StillSpeaking devotional for today. It is surely a joy for me to know that one day God will clean up this earth–and he may even do so with yours and my help!

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Excerpt from Ezekiel 32:1-15

“You consider yourself a lion among the nations, but you are like a dragon in the seas; you thrash about in your streams, trouble the water with your feet, and foul your streams….I will haul you up in my dragnet…I will let the wild animals of the whole earth gorge themselves with you….then I will make their waters clear.”

Given the fouling of the waters that’s been going on in the Gulf of Mexico these last months, it’s tempting to make British Petroleum the object of Ezekiel’s diatribe.

And, since I’m mad as hell and have never been very good at resisting temptation, I think I’ll do just that.  Won’t you join me?

**Pause to fantasize about God eviscerating BP and letting the vultures eat its innards, also bringing about massive remorse in the bigwigs responsible, also helping the former employees of the now-defunct company find healthy, productive new jobs, also helping me live a life that doesn’t depend on fossil fuels, also descending from heaven with some sort of celestial vacuum to suck all the oil out of the water**

Aaah.  Delightful.

One of the great gifts of rants like this is to serve as a container for whatever feelings threaten to overwhelm us.  Mad?  Terrified?  Broken?  Somebody, I promise, has written a biblical poem, prophecy, or song just right for you.  They are a reminder that God is often mad (or sad, or whatever) about the very same things we’re mad about; more importantly, they’re a reminder that we’re supposed to be mad about the same things God’s mad about.

Of course, we miss the boat if we sit around fantasizing all day.  The point is the repair of the world.  So, remembering that it’s always best to let God decide about vengeance and punishment, try this: do the fantasy again, but this time, see whether there isn’t a role that you can play in making the fantasy real.


God, thank you for the gift of inspiring visions, and even guilty pleasure fantasies.  But don’t let me stay in my imaginings; give me the strength to go out and do something.  Amen.

(Reflection by Quinn G. Caldwell, from iUCC StillSpeaking daily devotional e-letter, 23 June 2010.)