The Only Answer Is Mercy

Since posting yesterday about One Voice for Change, I've had a few conversations about the pragmatics of advocacy in the church.

Should you wait and play the long game? Or take a stand right here and right now, no matter how inconvenient the timing?

Idealism and pragmatism always seem to come into conflict. And what is sad about that is that it pits allies against each other. What to do? I left this comment in the thread to yesterday's post:
People have to do what they think is right. And that might mean playing the long game, tilling the soil and preparing the next generation where a harvest will be reaped. Others will see this as a bright moral line in the sand, a tangible form of injustice and that Jesus's call isn't to "effectiveness" or "growth" but to death in suffering for others.

And all that just describes the conflict between the people who agree with each other. Let alone the people who disagree.

The point being, we just have to trust that God will work through it all. Do what you think is right, but extend mercy. As I told a person involved with One Voice for Change, when it is all said and done we are all, no matter where we end up on the issue, going to have to forgive each other, over and over and over. Forgiving seventy-times-seven.

No one gets out of this without some damage to relationships. Even if you try to do nothing, as doing nothing creates conflict with those who want to so something.

We will hurt each other. No escaping that. And the only answer for that eventuality is mercy.

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4 thoughts on “The Only Answer Is Mercy”

  1. Richard, this seeming paradox of conficlting calls to action (pragmatism vs idealism) reminded me of a section in Walter Wink's book Engaging the Powers:

    "...Instead of these two extremes, the New Testament view of the Powers gives us a broad continuum of possible emphases, adaptable to every situation. There are no prepackaged answers that tell us how Christians should engage the Powers. One person may be called to try to reorganize the office where she works in a more humane fashion; another may have to walk out to protest sexual harassment. One may run for political office; another may despair of the electoral system and work to overthrow it. But all live in the paradox of "as if not," as being in but not of the Domination System. "Come out of her, my people" (Rev. 18:4) may be our marching orders, but so may be the call to assume secular office (as with Joseph and Daniel). Spiritual discernment takes the place of fixed rules." Walter Wink. Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination (Kindle Locations 1266-1271). Kindle Edition.

    And as William Stringfellow helpfully suggested, "Consistancy is not a Christian Virtue"!

    It may be that many will discern a call to seemingly conflicted paths of action… forgiveness & mercy will indeed be the glue that unites them in love for one another….

  2. Thanks so much for posting this Richard. It's funny how we pick and choose our approach based on how we frame certain issues. You are so right that allies end up fighting one another. We end up playing god as we assume we know for sure the best way to effect change... let alone whether the change we hope for will even prove to be an improvement. Even if we are 100% right about an issue... the nature of life is such that we will often be blind to our participation in other unhealthy systems and relationships. Thank you for the reminder to lean into mercy and grace lest we miss the log in our own eye and violate love in order to achieve our ends.

  3. This morning I was reading Luke 4 where Jesus in his home town of Nazareth stood up to read Isaiah proclaiming that preaching good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners, sight to the blind and freedom for the oppressed was fulfilled in him. As one who does NOT believe that Jesus was on divine automatic pilot, he knew in his mind and heart what kind of response this would cause; and it was not a pleasant one.

    I never had that kind of courage when I was a minister. My best attempts at such teaching was hit and run, hoping and praying that a small seed would be find its way to fertile soil. I found myself lacking when looking to Jesus the man as my example in proclaiming the embrace of the outcast, the lame, the rejected and the lonely.

    But another example I found in Jesus was, not simply his mercy, but a mercy that was more freely given than reserved for self. I believe that is the challenge that children of God should lay before one another; the willingness to give more mercy than we reserve for ourselves. The unwillingness to do so has been the cause of the "outsider's" disgust with Christianity, that mercy is seldom expressed until a church leader is caught is some indiscretion, then suddenly, he believes in mercy.

    As said, it should be a challenge that all children of God lay at the feet of one another. We do not catch it, it is not something that we can wait for until we feel the "gaiety" or "giddiness" of being a Christian, not something that waits until we feel comfortable with another. It is a recognition of the child Jesus lavishing mercy without the concern for what was left for him.

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