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The world is spiraling out of control. We are not evolving, but de-evolving. Every day things become more vicious, more divisive, more hopeless.

Here’s where you’re expecting me to say, “Have hope! God is with us!” I am not going to say that.

I’m growing increasingly tired of hearing, “hope and pray that things will improve.” I’m not sure that’s enough. It feels to me as if God is pushing our buttons lately, with a very intentional agenda in mind: What will it take?

What will it take for you to call your senator? What will it take for us to understand that we are all human beings and need to take care of one another? What will it take to stop blaming and start working on solutions? What will it take for us to wake up?

It is all very well and good to hope and pray. In fact, prayer can be powerful action. But there is more to be done, and it starts with making our actions congruent with our beliefs. Do you claim to be a Christian yet don’t care about (or actively work against) the welfare of the poor, the immigrant, those standing on the margins (like the LGBTQ community)? You might want to re-evaluate. Do you hate liberals? Conservatives? Hating is not a Christian value. Spewing that hatred, whether online or at a “rally” is not a Christian activity.

Which is not to say that Christians have a corner on morality; we don’t. And part of God’s wake-up call to us is recognizing that we, in our diversity of faith traditions, are more alike than different, that Sharia law doesn’t hurt me any more than someone keeping kosher does — just follow your own beliefs and be considerate of others’ beliefs. Religion isn’t the enemy; it’s people who misconstrue and misinterpret religion, who forget that God is love — above all else.

I firmly believe that Jesus was a radical. He didn’t come to soothe anybody’s spirits; he came to shake things up. And that’s what God is doing now. God is shaking and shaking us, trying to make us declare exactly who and what we are and what we believe is right and just.

So…are you ready to stand up? If not, what will it take?

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Mercy is something that seems to be in short supply in our society. Perhaps part of the problem is that we no longer know exactly what mercy is. We think we are being merciful when we aren’t being judgmental. You know what I mean. When you see someone behaving badly and let it go.

That isn’t mercy at all. God gave as the perfect example of mercy in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan, after all, demonstrated all three elements of mercy.

Emotion. First of all, you have to allow yourself to connect emotionally with the downtrodden. You have to see them and their situation. You have to feel that it is unjust. The Samaritan saw the beaten man and, in spite of considerable risk to himself, empathized and stopped to help.

Short Term Solution. Then you have to step in and act. You have to address the immediate need. The Samaritan did this when he bound the man’s wounds, but even that wasn’t enough.

Long Term Solution. To be truly merciful, you have to address the long term need. The Samaritan took the man to an inn and left money, promising to come back and make sure all expenses had been paid.

Ignoring someone’s lack of social skills? That’s not mercy.

Showing mercy means stepping up and helping the downtrodden, those who are treated unjustly. And it doesn’t mean simply speaking up when you witness one unjust act, it means addressing it long term.

Does this mean you have to march on Washington? Start a charitable program?

I’m not going to say NO because those might actually be things that you are called to do. Only you can know for certain.

But taking long term action can take place in a wide variety of ways.  It all depends on the nature of the injustice that has compelled you to act.

Maybe you will need to address the social inequities that allowed the situation to arise. This may mean donating to a charity that seeks a long term solution or donating to an scholarship to other educational fund.  It could also mean taking a public stance about something that stirs up great controversy.

It may mean that you need to address the situation politically. This could be as simple as signing a petition or supporting a particular candidate. Or maybe you will be the one asking people for signatures or passing out literature.

It may mean making choices in how you spend your money. In our household, we chose our long distance company based on where they invest (and don’t invest) their money. Maybe you will be called on to boycott a company whose policies, or sponsorship, allows this injustice to thrive.

Me, I don’t know what you will be called on to do. I do know that the first step is understanding what mercy is and opening your eyes to what is going on in your community, your country and our world.

It’s a lot to think about, but fortunately you’ve got the rest of Lent to mull it over.  Give it a prayer or two.  He will point you in the right direction.

–SueBE

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