Judgment and Compassion, Justice and Mercy

Today’s blogpost was shared by Marjorie C.

This reflection begins with the terrible tragedy of terrorism and ends with the toughest challenge of God’s grace and compassion:

Dr. Joshua Ralston preached at Second yesterday (listen to the whole thing HERE) and spoke about the scandal of God’s grace, offered to people even like the treacherous Zaccheaus.

He linked this biblical story with the release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing in Scotland. The 2009 decision to release Al Megrahi from prison because he had been diagnosed with a terminal illness was a highly inflammatory decision.

Ralston said, “this remains a controversial decision. It seems just beyond the pale.”

However, he went on to quote the Scottish Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, who said these words about the decision in 2009:

Scotland will forever remember the crime that has been perpetrated against our people and those from many other lands. The pain and suffering will remain forever. Some hurt can never heal. Some scars can never fade.

Those who have been bereaved cannot be expected to forget, let alone forgive. Their pain runs deep and the wounds remain.

However, Mr Al Megrahi now faces a sentence imposed by a higher power. It is one that no court, in any jurisdiction, in any land, could revoke or overrule. It is terminal, final and irrevocable. He is going to die.

In Scotland, we are a people who pride ourselves on our humanity.

It is viewed as a defining characteristic of Scotland and the Scottish people.

The perpetration of an atrocity and outrage cannot and should not be a basis for losing sight of who we are, the values we seek to uphold, and the faith and beliefs by which we seek to live.

Mr Al Megrahi did not show his victims any comfort or compassion. They were not allowed to return to the bosom of their families to see out their lives, let alone their dying days. No compassion was shown by him to them.

But that alone is not a reason for us to deny compassion to him and his family in his final days.

Our justice system demands that judgment be imposed but compassion be available.

Our beliefs dictate that justice be served, but mercy be shown.

Compassion and mercy are about upholding the beliefs that we seek to live by, remaining true to our values as a people. No matter the severity of the provocation or the atrocity perpetrated.

For these reasons – and these reasons alone – it is my decision that Mr Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, convicted in 2001 for the Lockerbie bombing, now terminally ill with prostate cancer, be released on compassionate grounds and allowed to return to Libya to die.”



Lord, your compassion is greater, your love is deeper, your grace is more disturbing than anything in the known world, than anything we can imagine. You challenge us through your scriptures–and through embodiments of your words in the world–to live more fully in the peculiar scandal of your grace. We want to grumble about this. Show us how to rejoice. Amen.