Look to the God of Mercy
Many of us have hearts that have been deeply wounded by a person or persons who have looked down upon us and treated us as though we are inferior. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns of the judgment that awaits those who inflict such injury on others: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”
The closing verses of Psalm 123 cry out over such hurt: “Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us, for we have endured much contempt. We have endured much ridicule from the proud, much contempt from the arrogant.”
Writing for iBenedictines.org, Digitalnun discusses the dangers of arrogance: “In my experience, arrogant people tend to twist and turn facts to suit their own purpose; they are supremely self-confident; and they do not really listen to others because such engagement would show up flaws in their own arguments. What they say and do is all about drawing attention to themselves—see how brilliant/beautiful/superior I am! It is indeed making a claim for oneself, and put like that, it looks rather childish doesn’t it? There is a danger in arrogance, however, as there is in most forms of childishness. One hesitates to name any individual as arrogant, but one can see the effects of arrogance all around: Many of our political and economic woes can be traced back to arrogance: to an exaggerated sense of self which disregards any check or balance. It is arrogance which makes it fashionable to decry needy people for being needy—why should I be compassionate when to do so I must step beyond myself and feel the pain of another? It is arrogance which makes it easier to fire bullets at one another rather than sit down and discuss, for why should I listen to you when I know I’m right and you are wrong?”
Psalm 123 is clear about the fact that God is above us. Verse 1 speaks of looking up to God whose throne is in heaven. Verse 2 likens our status with God to that of a servant to his master or a maid to her mistress. The critical difference, however, is that the arrogant treat us with contempt and ridicule, but God treats us with mercy. The arrogant are obsessed with the need to make themselves look good; God is driven by a love that seeks to do good to us. The arrogant put us down; God lifts us up. The arrogant, sometimes purposefully and sometimes accidentally, strips away our sense of worth; God consistently affirms our belovedness and our value.
David Benner remarks, “Neither knowing God nor knowing self can progress very far unless it begins with a knowledge of how deeply we are loved by God…. In order for our knowing of God’s love to be truly transformational, it must become the basis of our identity…. An identity grounded in God would mean that when we think of who we are, the first thing that would come to mind is our status as someone who is deeply loved by God.” (The Gift of Being Yourself, p. 49)
Jerry Sittser adds, “To our shock and bewilderment, we discover that there is a Being in the universe who, despite our brokenness and sin, loves us fiercely. In coming to the end of ourselves, we have come to the beginning of our true and deepest selves. We have found the One whose love gives shape to our being.”
Though our souls may have been deflated by those who are arrogant, we are lifted up by the God who shows us mercy!