“The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.”
“I Pardon You”
As I thought about this verse, a scene from a movie came to mind. In Schindler’s List, the 1993 masterpiece by Steven Spielburg, two characters, Oskar Schindler and Amon Goeth, discuss what should be done with Jewish prisoners.
Seeing that Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) was a cruel and sadistic concentration camp commander, Schindler (Liam Neeson) tries to convince him that the greatest exhibition of power is not in killing people, but pardoning them.
Schindler: They fear us because we have the power to kill arbitrarily. A man commits a crime, he should know better. We have him killed and we feel pretty good about it. Or we kill him ourselves and we feel even better. That’s not power, though, that’s justice. That’s different than power. Power is when we have every justification to kill – and we don’t.
Goeth: You think that’s power.
Schindler: That’s what the emperors had. A man stole something, he’s brought in before the emperor, he throws himself down on the ground, he begs for mercy, he knows he’s going to die. And the emperor pardons him. This worthless man, he lets him go.
Goeth: I think you are drunk.
Schindler: That’s power, Amon. That is power. (Schindler gestures toward Goeth as a merciful emperor) Amon, the Good.
Later in the film, Goeth almost decides to not punish a young boy for not cleaning his bath tub well enough. Instead of beating him, he looks at the boy (remembering Schindler’s words), and says, “I pardon you.” The boy then runs outside as Goeth begings to stare into the mirror, pointing to himself like a Michelangelo painting, and repeating the words, “I pardon you.”
It was only a moment later that Goeth notices a stain on the bath tub. His anger boiled as he picked up his rifle and shot the boy who was now walking to his barracks.
Mercy is Medicine
Just the other day, even though I was broke, I gave the last $20 I had to a man and his wife who had nothing. I am not writing this in order to get a pat on the back, but in order to make a point. The point is that I had no problem sleeping that night. My kindness was a small sacrifice.
However, to show mercy to someone who has wronged you, to someone who has hurt you, can be a tremendous sacrifice. Showing mercy means you give up something, like justice, payback, and revenge. But, there is no greater salve to the soul than showing mercy to the one who least deserves it.
The cruel person feels justified for his actions. But cruelty, no matter how it is rationalized, whether it be towards man or beast, is an acid that eats away at the soul.
Are you suffering from the effects of bitterness? Are you troubled by your anger? There is a cure. It’s called mercy.
“He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8 (NKJV)
- Oskar Schindler: The Untold Account of his Life, Wartime activities, and the True Story Behind The List (freedomofachristian.wordpress.com)