Three days ago I condemned abortion as murder when I wrote about the abortion “doctor” who was convicted of killing babies born alive. Today I am googling “foods that help women heal after an abortion” because I am making dinner for a new friend who is in the gut-wrenching place of trying to recover, physically and emotionally, after terminating her pregnancy.
What may appear as a contradiction is actually the call of every Christian. We must simultaneously proclaim God’s truth and administer mercy, or we are failing to live the true gospel.
Christians cannot shirk from speaking the truth of God, especially to those with whom we are in close relationship. We must gently and respectfully communicate God’s standards. For someone who leans a little more to the grace-giving side of life, this sometimes makes me uncomfortable. I can lose sleep in anticipation of a conversation with a Sister in Christ who is heading in a direction that goes against God’s ideals. And I am not alone in that struggle. Entire denominations have chosen to sidestep some of the most difficult scriptural teachings because illuminating ungodly thinking and behavior can seem unloving. However, if we allow cultural trends to dilute our doctrine we cease to be God’s light to a world in need. A world that hungers for a truth outside of itself. “Acceptance” without God’s ethics quickly degenerates into permissiveness, and we begin to look a lot like the lukewarm church in Revelation that God spits out.
But we also must be a fount of mercy for those who have fallen short of God’s glory. God directs us to bear one another’s burdens and mourn with those who mourn because He seeks to use us as conduits to pour out His grace and forgiveness on one another. We have to be the tangible proof of His love to a hurting world. We pursue and engage the broken because that was Christ’s mission, and we are to go and do likewise. If we simply spout truth without compassion, we have become Pharisees and risk being shaken off like dust from Christ’s sandals. Without mercy, we are simply moral police handing out citations to hurting people.
God could choose to instantly cleanse us of our sorrow and guilt without the church, but for some reason He often uses His people to dispense His mercy. Perhaps it is because God wants to foster an environment of interdependence among His people in the process of offering His healing and restoration.
I need mercy. I need it from my children and my husband and my friends when I shamefully confess my ugly thoughts and actions to them. When they show me mercy, I feel closer to them and closer to God.
Christian friend, how are you viewed by outsiders- or insiders for that matter? If someone has failed or is in a desperate situation, what will they encounter when they reveal their heartache to you? Are you a big talker who is light on sacrificial action? Will they find a heart of stone and haughty eyes? They already know what you think, will you surprise them by offering them God’s unrelenting grace?
Or are you struggling to find your voice within a situation that clearly transgresses God’s standards? In the name of being “loving” have you forgotten that “love rejoices with the truth”? Will you pray that God gives you uncompromising words seasoned with salt as you continue to walk by your friend’s side?
As far as the message of God’s truth reaches, our willingness to extend mercy must go that far as well. And maybe even an inch further.