Mercy makes no sense without sin.
[Mercy] is the spontaneous, creative movement of life-bestowing love that bends down wherever it detects misery. Hence the the word misericordia in Latin, the movement of the ‘heart’ (cor) that is shaken at the sight of the other’s plight (miseria) and moves to do something, going out of itself and toward the other… Thus mercy is redemptive and transformative by nature. (Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis)
Mercy can only exist if misery exists, and only if we are in need of some kind of redemption.
There is a constant tug-of-war in the heart of a disciple and of the Church. It is a struggle to balance two seemingly opposed forces.
First, that of reaching people – speaking the culture’s language and orienting your whole approach to helping people actually hear the words we’ve been commissioned to speak. We can’t just speak words at people and feel like we’ve done our job. We must scratch and crawl so that we can meet them where they are at. We must be lovers who seek out the other. We must be all about mercy. This is clear.
The other end is not watering down one iota of the Gospel. Surely, it isn’t enough to just speak the words; we must do it in love. However, it is equally assured that we can’t just meet people where they are at. We are to help bring them somewhere, to meet them with something – the words and power of Jesus. It’s not our message, it’s not our mission – it’s His. Ours is not to edit the mail, we must just deliver it faithfully. If we aim to be great lovers, but want nothing to do with the truth, then we are deceiving ourselves – we have chosen to live in unreality and so we’ve lost the truth and love along with it.
And what is the truth about us? What is the reality of our situation? It is undeniable: we are sinners.
And you he made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. Among these we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus… (Ephesians 2:1-6)
I tell you, No; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. (Luke 13:3,5)
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral [literally: fornicators], nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
How clear the words of the Gospel (i.e. the words of Jesus)! I’m not okay and you are not okay. Left to our own designs for our life, we are broken, disordered, not okay, cut off from the Kingdom of God and risking damnation. This is exactly why we need Mercy! We are in misery because of our sin; we need someone to bend down into our misery, to lift us, transform us, redeem us. To talk of Mercy as a way to just avoid our sinfulness and make us feel more included and okay-about-ourselves is simply stupid. It’s more than stupid, it is eternally dangerous. It is, in fact, not Mercy!
Brothers and sisters – we must resist the temptation to be hush-hush about anything Jesus reveals to us as the true reality around us, especially sin. In our attempt to be a Church that ‘reaches out’ and ‘meets people where they are at’, may we never forget that we are meant to be a vessel of salvation, which comes by way of speaking the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. May we, unembarrassed and deeply convinced, just speak the words of Jesus, including those concerning sin.
For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. (Mark 8:38)