The Courage of Mercy: Everybody In, Nobody Out
Withdrawal is the easy way out – Christians are called to get involved and show love to the other, whether friends or enemies, says Revd Steve Chalke. Our recap of an inspiring and thought-provoking weekend with Taizé and Oasis Church Waterloo.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, the phrase ‘What would Jesus Do?’ became a mantra for a generation of Christians. Being part of a youth group or particular type of church meant wearing those ‘WWJD’ wristbands to declare to the world an identity as a believer in God.
It was a simple call to action, a moral map that showed the way to becoming a better Christian – just think about how Jesus would act or respond to an issue that you are facing, and follow that route.
Fast forward to today. The wristbands have gone. The phrase makes people cringe. So let’s revisit that question in a different light: what did Jesus actually do?
Many of the situations we find ourselves in life are not quite as simple as the ‘WWJD’ approach might have it. Life is messy, full of questions, and often contradictory. At our SCM and Taizé gathering in March, we heard first-hand the challenges of being a community of love and mercy.
Showing mercy is not just doing nice things and being nice to people. When Jesus was asked by a young man in Mark 10:17–31 about inheriting eternal life, Jesus did not simply state ‘follow me’. He questioned what it meant to be good and challenged the man about his wealth, telling him to sell all his possessions and give everything to the poor.
Jesus said that in love (‘Jesus looked at him and loved him’ v 21). As Brother Paolo pointed out, this kind of love takes courage, to step out and challenge what is incorrect or unjust.
When faced with these difficult conversations, the choice is quite simple: engage or withdraw. Don’t take the easy way out, said Steve Chalke. There’s a terrible myth in the Christian narrative, he said, that Christianity is about withdrawal: don’t engage with the swindlers, the prostitutes and the tax cheats. Church might teach us not to hang out with these people. But what did Jesus actually do? He hung out with the swindlers, the prostitutes and the tax cheats.
Things get messy when you include and involve people. Difficult conversations are had. There may even be conflict and disagreement. But through this, never judge and exclude but try to work with everyone.
That’s a reflection of God and the community that places like Oasis and Taizé strive to be. Communities built on welcome and hospitality, but also accountability and working things out. As Steve pointed out, when Jesus said love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, he wasn’t interested in the impact on your enemy. He was interested in the impact on you. In confronting your own prejudices and attitudes towards people, you deal with them through action – and become more like God in the process.
God is love. And you can’t love unless you have another to love, said Steve. When we say God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that’s community. Right at the beginning – in Genesis 1:27 – when God said, ‘let us make them in our image’, there’s a clear sign of why community is so important. For too long we have individualised this idea into meaning each of us was made in God’s image. But that’s wrong. We are a whole – male and female, made in likeness as a community. True community reflects the image of God. We are held together by grace, giving and receiving both mercy and correction to each other in love.
When we look at the things that Jesus did, we begin to see what it means to be courageous and truly include people. We begin to see that communities are places and people held together in the image of God, working to bring about the Kingdom in the messiness of life.Tags: Taizé Communitymercysteve chalkecommunityWWJD