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‘We all need a little mercy now’, recognising the universal need for grace

Corin Pilling, Assistant Director of Community Engagement at Livability shares a series of events that happened over the course of a week. One, a typical London scene and the other, a shocking addition to the knife crime epidemic – but with a sense of overwhelm, where should we turn to next?

A sobering cycle ride

It is late January, and I find myself cycling past the Palace of Westminster as sleet blasts through the air. I catch a glimpse of European and Union flags in a blur, surrounded by people wrapped up for a cold day’s protesting. I see determination and resilience in their faces as they attempt to influence a process that for many of us feels out of reach. ‘It requires time and commitment to stay engaged,’ I think.

The same week, I return home to find the whole estate cordoned off. Tragically, Nedim Bilgin, a boy of only 17 years, has been killed on the perimeter of the estate a few hundred yards from his home, just hours before. I cycle past the edge of the cordon, at what feels like a respectful distance. As I do, I raise my hand to acknowledge a single policeman. In turn, he responds – ‘Good night, Sir.’ I become aware of how powerless this gesture feels in the midst of the loss my community is facing. I find myself reflecting on the growing knife-crime epidemic. ‘It requires time and commitment to stay engaged.’

What are we to do?

Recognising the very fact I can choose to be involved, or not – places me in a different situation than many here who are compelled to be involved. Despite my agency, like many others – I often feel overwhelmed.

For me, the moment of grace came in the form of Mary Gauthier’s song ‘Mercy Now’ which I discovered this week. It landed like a balm from nowhere. It’s a song that paints a picture of the universal need we have for mercy in intractable situations we face. Whether we are in power, or whether we feel powerless, there are times where we encounter this deep need. Thank God for the moments that wake us up.

Here’s an excerpt below, and you’ll find all the lyrics by scrolling down the album.

‘My brother could use a little mercy now
He’s a stranger to freedom
He’s shackled to his fears and doubts
The pain that he lives in is
Almost more than living will allow
I love my brother, and he could use some mercy now
Yea, we all could use a little mercy now
I know we don’t deserve it
But we need it anyhow
We hang in the balance
Dangle ‘tween hell and hallowed ground
Every single one of us could use some mercy now
Every single one of us could use some mercy now
Every single one of us could use some mercy now’

I’d recommend you allow yourself a quiet moment to take it in. You can listen to the song here:

It shone a light on the possibility of something kinder than pure pragmatism – something based in love. As a picture of our common human need and struggle, it’s a gift.

Hebrews 4: 16 offers us this:
‘Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.’

When we recognise our universal need for mercy and grace – we discover an antidote to categorizing people; such a successful strategy in building distance. Our political discourse is a culprit here – dividing lines based on the way others voted, for example. Equally, the dividing lines can develop when we judge a different lifestyle, or life experiences. My life is ultimately very different to those boys on the streets around my estate. Yet in recognizing we all need grace and mercy ‘in our time of need’ possibilities emerge. At what point are we ever not in a ‘time of need’? The only thing that changes is whether we are able to see it.

A fresh approach

When situations feel politically impossible, and we’re faced with unacceptable acts of violence in our community – we need to find way to approach these situations afresh. It requires time and commitment to stay engaged in our country’s political journey and multi-layered and painful local situations. Yet, before that, precedes love and the recognition of our need to receive love – so let us point one another to God’s throne of grace with confidence, because ‘every single one of us could use some mercy now.’

Corin Pilling is Assistant Director of Community Engagement at Livability

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