When my brother and I were kids, back in the days before iPads and the Cartoon Network, we used to play Mercy. This was the perfect game for two boys close enough in age to want to inflict physical pain upon the other. We’d try to twist the other’s hand backwards until one of us gave in and literally cried out for “Mercy.” In some parts of the country, this game is known as Uncle (“Say uncle!”), but the concept remains the same. The point is to cause enough pain for your opponent to give up before actually breaking his wrist and getting in trouble with your parents. To be merciful is to relent. But it’s more than just stopping that which is painful; it is to acknowledge that a painful situation exists and then offering relief. It is an act of mercy, for instance, to help a person in need. Someone who is struggling emotionally or financially or spiritually. On a global level, mercy is one of the defining characteristics of God. “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy, slow to anger, and of great kindness,” the Psalmist proclaims. So to be compassionate is to show mercy, and to be merciful is to show compassion. Compassion and mercy are two sides of the same coin, pointing toward the reality that, ultimately, mercy is about love. When we crave God’s mercy, we are craving God’s love. In many ways, the world is crying out for mercy these days. In the past week, a white supremacist killed two African-Americans at a Kroger grocery store in Kentucky; a man in Florida targeted people he disagreed with politically by sending them mail bombs; and an anti-semite murdered 11 Jews and wounded countless others when he opened fire inside a synagogue. You can’t help but cry out for mercy when hate and violence shatter the sanctity of our common humanity. The synagogue in Pittsburgh where the shooting took place was called the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life is an ancient image teeming with hope and possibility, one that stands in contrast to that other famous tree in the Book of Genesis — the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. That second tree is the one which Adam and Eve famously ate from, causing them to be banished from paradise. The Tree of Life brings us back to the Garden of Eden, to a time of unfettered joy and unity and love and abundance. And yet it feels so remote and inaccessible when the sin of hate and prejudice runs rampant in our midst, causing pain and sowing division, tearing people down rather than building them up. Destroying fellow children of God, people made in God’s image, while violating the sanctuary of a house of worship is evil. You don’t have to be a person of faith to comprehend that truth. But in order to return to a place of hope, our own fears and prejudices must first be crucified and driven out. And it’s on us to stand up to bigotry and violence and cruelty when it rears its ugly head. To name it and to shine a light upon the darkness in our midst. We may not be able to control the external circumstances when the Pandora’s Box of hate is opened, but we can surely control our response to it, and react with vigilance when it arises. That’s what it means to be a person of faith in a sinful and broken world. We pray, and then we stand up in the face of injustice and hatred. And in the meantime, we cry out for mercy. Mercy for ourselves, mercy for the victims of violence and degradation, mercy for those who grieve, mercy for our Jewish brothers and sisters, mercy for one another. We’re all in this together. Regardless of race or creed or religion, all of humanity cries out for mercy. — The Rev. Tim Schenck serves as Rector of the Episcopal Parish of St. John the Evangelist in Hingham, MA. Visit his blog “Clergy Confidential” at clergyconfidential.com or follow him on Twitter @FatherTim.