“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”
“Happy the kind — because they shall find kindness.”– Matthew 5:7 New Revised Standard Version (merciful/mercy) and Young’s Literal Translation (kind/kindness)
I’ve been humming a song off and on since worship Sunday morning. Every once in awhile I sing a few words of the refrain: “So be merciful, just as our God is merciful.” It’s a newish hymn – published in 2015 – by Ed Bolduc. The tune is new and the refrain is new. But the verses are from a hymn first published in 1854: “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy” by Frederick W. Faber.
There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in [God’s] justice, Which is more than liberty.
For the love of God is broader Than the measure of our mind;– Frederick W. Faber, “There’s A Wideness in God’s Mercy,” stanzas 1, 5
And the heart of the Eternal Is most wonderfully kind.
According to Hymnary.org, one version or another of Faber’s hymn has been published in at least 757 hymnals. Faber’s other famous hymn – “Faith of Our Fathers” – shows up in at least 728.
From what I can see there were at 12 stanzas in the original “There’s a Wideness to God’s Mercy.” Different folks mix and match the stanzas into verses (typically two per verse), usually leaving out a few. There are, of course, several different tunes to which it can be sung – which is exactly the sort of thing that can lead to my confusion when leading worship in a new (to me) place!
I began this blogpost thinking about mercy – hence the beatitude at the top – and was delighted to discover Young’s Literal Translation of kindness. The dictionary at the back of my Greek New Testament lists both mercy and compassion as suitable translations. Whatever word we use, we are called to be merciful / kind / compassionate in response to God’s mercy / kindness / compassion.
So be merciful, just as our God is merciful.Ed Bolduc, “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy / Be Merciful,” Refrain (c) 2015. World Library Publications.
Be merciful, just as our God is merciful to us.
Let there be a wideness in our mercy.
Let there be a kindness in our hearts.
Oh, may our lives be merciful.
My you know mercy, compassion and kindness.
May you be merciful, compassionate, kind.
p.s. There is a YouTube video of Bolduc’s version.