What I desire is mercy, not sacrifice

One Bible passage to which I return again and again is ``For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings'' [Hosea 6:6] -- this means so much to me that I'm devoting a whole web page to one Bible verse. It occurs in the prophecy of Hosea, and is cited by Jesus at Matthew 9:13 and Matthew 12:7. Similar passages occur in many places earlier in the Old Testament; I was surprised by how early this idea appeared, having thought it was a later development. (I can't list them at the moment because I can't remember the words used to express the ideas... and so can't get them using the concordance.)

Although I think this verse is of great relevance and importance to all, perhaps it stands out to me because of my personal psychospiritual make-up, with a tendency to put the emphasis on justice in rather a rigid way (except, I've noticed, sometimes when it is particularly convenient to me) and letting lovingkindness trail behind (or getting rid of it altogether when it seems to compromise righteousness). (Indeed, I sometimes think that my living by a Rule of Life in a religious order may partly be an expression of Pharisaism, and I'm wary of it for that reason... but it should not and need not be that!)

Some things this means for me

God is not trying to catch us out
There's a common view of God as the big policeman in the sky; this is generally thought not to be a good way to look at Him. He is fair, but looking for every chance to let us off from the natural consequences of what we do (but without violating justice). Mercy is not a violation of justice, but the greatest possible fulfilment of it (I think -- this is tricky). In some sense (within our limited understanding [My ways are higher than your ways]), not following ``mathematical'' justice alone does destroy a balance, but God is allowed to do this, at his cost[].
God wipes the slate absolutely clean
God is not counting (tallying, noting what we do wrong)
much more to come!
[John's Christianity page]
John C. G. Sturdy

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