Hi, friends. Most of us live in a high-tech, dog-eat-dog world. To be fair, humans have always been selfish and greedy, but perhaps the problem seems worse now because the possibilities of wealth have increased so much. After all, a poor person in America possesses many luxuries that ancient kings didn’t.
As the possibilities for societal corruption seem to increase, the radical messages of Christianity have been diluted, and the religion blends into the fabric of American life. Some regard Christians as “quaint and old-fashioned;” some regard us as “hopelessly stupid.” Not many regard us as radical agents of positive change because, in many cases, we have failed to keep the radical commands of Jesus Christ.
We have obscured the Gospel and, in many ways, forsaken true discipleship. We have determined to serve two masters at once–God and wealth. Hence, the three concepts mentioned in the title have been reduced to pitiful shadows of themselves in popular usage and interpretation.
In our society, love is a warm, fuzzy feeling reserved for the people we care about the most.
In our society, mercy (forgiveness) is being a pushover.
In our society, peace is idealistic and silly.
We took serious, difficult commands and converted them to cliches. Jesus told us to take up our cross, and we responded by reducing the size of that cross until it fit in our pockets and justified all our worldly actions and beliefs.
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23, NIV)
In the Gospel, love is a verb. Love is doing the thankless job. Love is overlooking the habit of your spouse or relative or coworker that drives you nuts. Love is extending kindness to people we don’t know or don’t like. Love means getting our hands dirty figuratively and literally. Love is hard work.
In the Gospel, mercy is a give-and-take; if we want to be forgiven by God, we must forgive others. Mercy requires the strength and humility to let go of grudges because we see our own imperfections. Mercy is hard work.
In the Gospel, peace is speaking truth to power–not “our truth” but the truth that shines penetrating light into dark corners. Peace requires loosening our grip on our opinions and prejudices to sort out justice; peacemakers call out all kinds of dishonesty and oppression–regardless of social identities and political stances. Peace is hard work.
The followers of Jesus have been called to show love and mercy and also be peacemakers. Will we acknowledge the gravity of these commands, or will we continue to blend our worldly beliefs with our religious beliefs, minimizing our true calling? Woe to us if we do.
Considering the state of “real life,” real love, real mercy, and real peace are desperately needed.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3, NIV)
Thanks for reading!