Mercy in the Public Square

In his column this week for The Atlantic, David French relates an incredible story of grace in the face of suffering and opposition. His wife Nancy, who is a victim of sexual abuse, was giving a talk at a local college about loving one’s enemies. When the floor was open to discussion, someone in the audience asked a cruel and pointed question. Nancy broke down and left the stage, but mustered her courage and returned to continue speaking. Unexpectedly, the person who asked the question got up and apologized, and clarified why he had asked it: he was a victim of sexual abuse himself. Nancy forgave him and lauded him in front of the crowd.

Go read the whole thing, but if you don’t, it’s worth reflecting on how David French concludes his story. I’m convinced that forgiveness is one of the most pressing challenges in front of us as a society.

I know there are evil people online. I know there are evil people who are cruel up close and in person. But sometimes what seems like cruelty is really loneliness, or confusion, or heartbreak. We define each other by our worst moments and withhold forgiveness.

But we should forgive. We must forgive. Otherwise this nation of broken people will keep breaking each other. Pain can look a lot like anger, and when we know that to be true, we can take risks. We can give second chances, and when we do, we can sometimes see that an enemy isn’t an enemy at all, but another struggling person who needs healing and grace. There must be mercy in the public square.

“The Seven Corporal Works of Mercy”. Source: Wikipedia

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