Impacting Cities & Communities thru Prayer
A Community of Prayer Champions, Praying Churches, Prayed-for Communities
At the local vigil for the victims of the mass shooting in Orlando Sunday, Rev. RL Gundy conceded that finding forgiveness in the face of such hatred was challenging. "How do I look you in the face and say, 'Love your enemy?'” he wondered.
I know where RL is coming from....There is much to say, there are so many larger forces at work but it just doesn’t seem appropriate now. If we would pray more and speak out less, we would find ourselves on the side of good. If we would be love more, talk love less, we would find ourselves on the side of good. If we would pray for our enemies, we would find ourselves on the side of good. If we would not condemn those who do not live like us, we would find ourselves on the side of good.
It is my hope and prayer that the church would lead with genuine humility, compassion and an openness to LGBT people rather than a religious lead-with-justice approach…. Because the most justice can exact from us is respect.
When justice is conveyed through religious culture mindset, it doesn’t even get that much from us; it gets our rejection with a not surprising “thanks, but no thanks” response. This is something the legalists never acknowledge, allowing them to heap further judgment upon those who do not “obey the law.” This enables them to artificially shift the blame from themselves to those they have victimized.
The whole lead-with-justice system fails, even in its best efforts. God certainly does not want our rejection, and even our respect is not enough. God wants our love. And only mercy begets love.
If God did not begin with mercy, God would not be God–Whose nature is love, love from which amazing grace flows to “the sinner” who is any and all of us. As we learn from the story of Hosea, mercy doesn't deny justice, it only precedes and then goes beyond it.
The ultimate sign that mercy supersedes justice is the Cross. In eternal paradox, God “absorbs” the justice and “extends” the mercy–both in Christ -- the Just One who died self-sacrificially for the unjust. We, the justified body of Christ, the Church, must do likewise, as we seek to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly” and integrate the whole counsel of scripture into our prayer, care, share lifestyle.
But too often we reverse it by asking the sinner to “absorb” justice as a pre-requisite to the extending of mercy. This is simply not the way of God. Instead, in Christ we see the primacy of mercy, offered to us all in ways that derives justice in the process.
That's why the church is the place in our society where the fullness of God’s ways should be displayed. Ministries of justice and mercy strengthen the reach of the Great Commission insofar as we live and teach the whole counsel of scripture. Those who are called to evangelism must not neglect that full counsel any more than those who are called to feed the orphan and the widow. And conversely, we cannot truly love our neighbors as ourselves without offering them the Good News of Christ’s redemption, so that God’s love and forgiveness may extend everywhere–and do so in ways that are continually new and surprising.
Radical? Yes. Risky? Clearly. Mandatory? Absolutely. Because the work of justice is the restoration of God’s true image in the world, made known in the one true Image, Jesus Christ. So, when Jesus commands us to love our neighbor and to love the enemy, he’s training us in overcoming the split between my self and your self. What you do to another, you do to yourself. What you do to the neighbor, you do to Christ. As Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.”
Scripture says it is with loving kindness that God drew us to himself. That kindness is the balance to justice and it is something that God accomplishes and that we are to emulate in our pursuit of unity with our neighbor, with the enemy, and with God. This creates a missional unity within the body of Christ. For as stated in the Lausanne Covenant: “When people receive Christ they are born again into his kingdom and must seek not only to exhibit but also to spread its righteousness in the midst of an unrighteous world.”