You’ll notice the theme of this issue of Faith & Fellowship is “Community and Mercy.” Originally it was envisioned as simply “Mercy.” So why the change?
As the articles rolled in, there seemed to be two different angles on mercy. There is God’s mercy, whereby he withholds his righteous judgment against sinners – does not treat us as our sins warrant – because of Christ. But there was also the concept of mercy where people show kindness to those going through personal crises or widespread disasters – tsunami, earthquake and flood. These acts of mercy are motivated by the Spirit of God in the hearts of believers. So are there two (or more) kinds of mercy?
During the editing process, it finally hit me. There is only one kind of mercy. Its ultimate source is the heart of God. But here are two clarifying thoughts about mercy:
- Mercy is always (only) seen in the context of relationship. Can we show mercy to an inanimate object? No, mercy is for living things, especially people. And for us as human beings, mercy is a necessary ingredient to community. Against the background of flawed and broken relationships, any mercy shown will be vividly displayed. For these relationships to be restored or healed, mercy is absolutely necessary. If there is no mercy, there can be no true community. In God’s mercy, we see that we are invited into a relationship – community – with him.
- Mercy is always a response to sin. We understand God to be a God of mercy, and mercy would be one his attributes whether there was sin in the world or not. But apart from sin, would we know his mercy? Would we recognize it? The tax collector in the temple could only cry, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13). Mercy is for sinners, from God toward us and, in turn, from us toward others. The common denominator: all mercy is shown to those experiencing the consequences of sin – to all of us who experience the consequences of our own sin, to those who unfortunately experience the consequences of someone else’s sin, and to those who find themselves experiencing the consequences of sin upon this world in which we live in the form of disaster or tragedy.
“Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:10). Community and mercy. We can’t have one without the other!