Mercy Not Sacrifice!

Peacemaking in a Polarizing World
May 30, 2024
BEING BANNED IN JESUS’ NAME
June 10, 2024
Peacemaking in a Polarizing World
May 30, 2024
BEING BANNED IN JESUS’ NAME
June 10, 2024

When we are pushed and pressured to take sides by those around us, to reject someone or a group and prefer another, to vilify, hate and dehumanise one over and against the’ other’, we have a choice. Just as Jesus did when he was invited and frequently pressured into rejecting God’s love for all people, forced to choose one over another.  In Mark’s Gospel (2:23-3:6) Jesus is pressured to criticise his disciples for their behaviour, and when that doesn’t work, they criticise Jesus directly for healing on the Sabbath in a synagogue.

Like Jesus, our choice is, and always should be, to choose Jesus’ way; to see through and beyond the unacceptable choices the world is presenting to us, to choose God’s Christlike love and peace for all our sisters and brothers.  Our answer in Christ resounds throughout the world, in the liminal space between God and the powers and principalities of the world directing us one way. We choose God’s Way and we choose our neighbours.

Have you ever thought about how often you read the gospels and hear the invitation to become part of the world’s divisions and rejections, to take sides?  The stories always start with the religious or political authorities asking Jesus about why he is doing or saying something and offering him their ‘right’ way, seeking to change his behaviour. 

Remember the story about the woman caught in adultery as the religious authorities sought Jesus’ condemnation for her behaviour to support the rules (John 8:3-11); or the story inviting Jesus to commit treason by refusing Caesar his taxes (Matt. 22:15-22).  Jesus calls his challengers, ‘hypocrites’ and is ‘aware of their malice’ (Matt. 22:18). 

Now, we reflect on the way Jesus behaved on the Sabbath, he and his disciples feeding themselves as they walk through a field; and Jesus’ response to the hard heartedness of the authorities as he chose to heal a man with a withered hand in the Synagogue also on a Sabbath while they chose to take offence instead.  Jesus asked them: 

Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?’  But they were silent. (Mark 3:4)

What would your response be to such an extraordinary question.  The fact Jesus had to ask the question should stop us in our tracks.  We might ask ourselves when has Jesus asked us such a question, because I’m sure he has.  Jesus’ response is always to look at the struggles and suffering of the people and with the eyes of God, to look with love; showing everyone there is nothing which can stand between God’s love and another human being, however we judge them or reject them. 

So where does this leave us, as we contemplate the awful, unimaginable horrors experienced by the Palestinians in Gaza caught between the overwhelming rage, fear and shared hatreds held by Israel and Hamas of the other; the terrible grief and suffering of the families seeking the just and immediate restoration of their loved ones from being held hostage from a deaf and blind government ignoring their pleas and an ‘enemy’ who has become absolutely unspeakable and inhuman by their actions.

The media shows in despairing detail, the suffering of the Ukrainian people fleeing their houses as Russian forces creep every closer with bombs and artillery, taking over, taking power, taking life.  And the terrible stories of the Sudanese peoples once again bearing the brunt of civil war and ethnic cleansing as the ‘other’ is dehumanised and rejected.  And across the world and in our own homes with family and domestic violence, women, children and families pay the price for our lack of willingness to build, share and work for peace with God’s justice and love.

The world is demanding an accounting for the horrors; peacemaking institutions seem powerless; the combatants are demanding ever more loudly we take sides as they defend their use of violence; and in the liminal space, we know the love of God refuses to see any sides, seeing only the suffering of the people, God’s children.  Never, with any human being, does God accept or believe the end justifies the means.  God died so this absolute rejection of violence could be seen plainly.   God does not demand this sacrifice of us, this flourishing of violence, as humanity seems always to seek to outdo each other in horror to win a victory poured out in tens of thousands of lives filled with rage and grief, and the cost of intergenerational suffering, fear, hatred, vengeance and violence.  

If you had known what this means, I desire mercy and not sacrifice’, says Jesus, ‘you would not have condemned the guiltless.  For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. (Matt. 12:7-8)

In our own churches we also seem unable to work peacefully with differences of opinion and among God’s extravagant, colourful, endless diversity of life and creation in which we come together in the body of Christ.   

Jesus was angry at those who would deny God’s love, healing and forgiveness.  He grieved at their hardness of heart, shown by those worshipping in God’s house (Mark 3:5).  The authorities’ unwillingness to see the suffering of the man whose hand was withered, because they believed he could wait and not affront their sacred space and beliefs with such an unwanted display of God’s scandalous and outrageous love for those who are rejected. 

Like Martin Luther King, we know when we see injustice we have an opportunity to spread God’s love and peace. It will not keep for a more appropriate time as judged by – the authorities, those with privilege and power, who determine who’s right, wrong or unacceptable.  God’s love is for sharing now, we don’t need to wait for a better time, to suit this person or that rule or judgement.  We are sent into the world to share God’s peace, to love our neighbours as ourselves because it is how we show our love for God through the way we treat one another.  The eucharistic meal is the ultimate sacrament of peace in which we share.

In the wars and violence we encounter today, let us look with God’s Christlike eyes and know each person, uniquely made, is beloved.  Let us not be shoved one way or another by this world.  We are rightly angry at injustice, at horrific terror and cruelty, at suffering, violence and death.  Justly so.  But let us act with love in caring and sharing God’s peace, as we choose God’s way, not piling onto humanity’s scapegoats, pulled together with the tattered, shameful threads of racism, patriarchy, tyranny, bigotry and the abuse of power.   We need to slow down, be less quick to categorise and blame, get to know one another more clearly, understand each other’s stories, and practice being peace makers not peace takers.    

The Lord be with you.

Lucy Morris
Lucy Morris
Anglican Priest, International Speaker, Published Author, Social Justice Advocate and Activist.

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