Twice blessed

Breezy reflections on Thought for the Day this morning on a gun amnesty, the quality of mercy and God’s choice to forget our transgressions.

As ever, you can listen again here at 01:23:09, or read the text below.

If you’ve got an old gun kicking about, then now is the time to do something about it. Police Scotland’s two week amnesty means that any unlicensed firearms and ammunition can be surrendered without prosecution. Although firearms offences are at a low level, the aim of the exercise is to remove the potential for guns to fall into the hands of those who might use them in the pursuit of criminal activity.  

The word ‘amnesty’ is an interesting one. Many of think about the work of Amnesty International, an organisation that has campaigned for justice for individuals for almost 60 years, but the root of the word has more to do with mercy and pardon than justice. An amnesty is an intentional choice to forget, a decision to release another from an obligation in order to win peace. It takes courage and a willingness to lay aside our desire for victory but, as Shakespeare wrote, mercy bestows blessing on those who receive it and those who give it. 

The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
(The Merchant of Venice IV, 1)

The act of forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian message, and in the psalms we find verses that describe the mercy of God in his amnesty towards human selfishness. 

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
(Psalm 103:12)

Acts of amnesty, or mercy, bring freedom and fresh beginnings for nations and individuals. Scotland has a low gun crime rate at present, and bold initiatives such as the Violence Reduction Unit have seen a decrease in knife crime over the past decade, but we all carry anger and grudges in our hearts. Perhaps an amnesty on words, rivalry and hatred would also set us free and bring some peace to our lives.

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Something that will convince the world

Today’s thought for the day centred around the 150th anniversary of the birth of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and encouraged us to think beyond the here and now. As ever, you can listen again here at 01:22:58 or read the script below. On a side note it was also good to meet Dr Deborah McNeill from the Glasgow Science Festival who was enthusiastic about all the events happening across the city in the next fortnight. You can check out these events by clicking the link above.

Good morning.

The artist and architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh was born 150 years ago today. There are numerous opportunities to rediscover his work in Glasgow over the summer, and the new V & A museum in Dundee will include a full restoration of his Oak Room tearoom when it opens later this year. Even if you have never visited one of Mackintosh’s buildings, you will undoubtedly be familiar with his designs from a tea-towel, mug or coaster.

Like many visionary artists, Mackintosh was not always acclaimed in his lifetime, and his work did not receive the same degree of interest at home as it did in Europe. Now, however, he is regarded as one of Scotland’s greatest creative influences. What he would make of the tea-towels is debatable.

In a lecture given in 1902, Mackintosh stated:

Art is the Flower. Life is the Green Leaf. Let every artist strive to make his flower a beautiful living thing, something that will convince the world that there may be, there are, things more precious, more beautiful – more lasting than life itself.

Legacy is something we recognise in hindsight. The green leaf of life is often misunderstood until the flower blossoms much later, and the task of the artist in convincing the world of what could be, can feel fruitless during his or her lifetime. 

Whether or not we are artistic, the idea of striving to leave something beautiful behind is an appealing one, but in the day to day reality of existence, we seldom live with such high-minded purpose. 

The apostle Paul encouraged the Christians in Philippi to choose not to grumble or argue, but to shine like stars in the sky. Whatever job we do, whatever struggles we face, however dark the world appears today, perhaps we need to encourage one another to keep going, shining like stars and convincing the world that there are things more precious, more beautiful and more lasting than life itself.