Executing Mercy

Image taken from the cover of “Executing Grace” by Shane Claiborne
Image taken from the cover of “Executing Grace” by Shane Claiborne

 

Their death is not a medicine

Which cures disease of violence.

Christ’s execution for all sin

Breaks chains to offer mercy, grace.

 

The cross, a noose, an injection-

When we choose death we give offense

For we forget where we have been.

God’s call to save has been erased.

 

This ‘eye for eye’ is old, spoiled wine

And Jesus’ call misrepresents.

Why listen to the worldly din?

New covenant is God’s embrace.

 

“Learn mercy,” yet we sacrifice;

Sadly ignore, still pay the price.

 

Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I did not come to call the pious, but sinners to repentance. (Matthew 9:13)

 

(Other relevant verses: John 3:16-17; John 5:24; James 2:8-13)

 

Sacred Cows

©Artsia
©Artsia

In ancient days when Moses went up to Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, he was gone for 30 days. Expecting him to return much sooner, the Israelites became impatient and surly. They wanted a leader and a God who responded to them NOW.

With Aaron’s help, they built a god to worship: a god they could control and define; a god they could see and touch; a god made to fit inside their own box; a sacred cow designed to approve of their own agendas.

What are your sacred cows? Abortion? The death penalty? Guns? Immigration? LGBTQ? Marriage? Prayer in schools? Whatever point on the spectrum you stand on these issues, do you worship them more than God?

Is your desire to be right on these issues more important than introducing people to Jesus through your compassionate, loving and grace-filled words and actions?

Do you remember that Jesus came for the sick and broken? Do you recall His main reason for being which He himself explained to Nicodemus (emphasis mine)?

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17)

Jesus saves; he doesn’t condemn. Jesus invites; he doesn’t exclude. Jesus delivers grace and compassion; he doesn’t turn his back or refuse healing or help. Jesus offers life, redemption and restoration; he vanquished death.

He fulfilled the law because law does not prevent us from sinning. Jesus transforms our hearts and minds. He gives us the desire to shift our words and behavior, and we do that with the Father’s blessing and the Spirit’s help.

sand

Does Brexit matter? Does the person elected to sit in the White House matter? Do your agendas matter? Perhaps for a moment. But in the long run, the agendas, the people, the issues are only grains of sand among all the oceans.

As Christians, isn’t it time we shift the paradigm of the ways we respond to hot button issues?

Because right now, we’re still acting as stumbling blocks to the very people who may earnestly desire our help – to the very people Jesus came to save. And only His love and compassion – through us – can transform hearts and minds.

Are you ready to abandon your sacred cow in order to embrace a potential disciple?

 

Why do we want to kill all the broken people?

Buy the book, like today. P.S. I am not receiving ANYTHING for this endorsement

Sometimes the hard conversations are the ones that we need to have. We avoid them, run from them or sometimes completely ignore them. The longer I walk with Jesus, the more I realize that although he has changed my mind and my heart in drastic ways, I am still me. Although for a long time, I didn’t think it was o.k. to be me. Like today. Until I realized, I am exactly who he made me to be.

There are many people who have opinions on a variety of topics. Suffice it to say I wouldn’t go to a pediatrician to get an opinion on my criminal case. As smart as I am with the brains God has given me, I am smart enough to know I don’t know everything. But what I do know is the system, in all of its ebbs and flows, trials and tribulations, behind the scenes intensity and the story behind the story. I read a lot of commentary on the beast we call our court system. Most major news stories draw tons of commentary on the various opinions of the various people around the world. But if you don’t work there, if you’ve never been on the inside, it’s hard to offer anything but personal or emotion based commentary on the things you have no daily dealings with. I have seen it play out time and time again as I am in the middle of working on a case and am intimately familiar with the details, but the public who is not is able to formulate an opinion without knowing the whole story.

I mistakenly thought that when I came to Christ, everyone was a Christian. But I have found on my journey with Jesus that there are more atheists that are Christians than Christians. They may not know they are Christians, but many of them are. We are not living in the four corners and depths of their hearts. Sitting in a pew may make the seat warm, but most times, doesn’t do much more than that.

I am pushing against an uncomfortable current and God is calling me to do the things He has planned for me long ago in the way that I have been operating in the world for most, if not all of my adult life. Having the toughest cases, taking the most unpopular positions, fighting the big guy, calling out liars, defending the poor and the oppressed, standing up when others sit down, representing the people the public may hate the most. Nothing about that has changed. But to be a Christian and do those types of things is so much more difficult, to be judged by your own. Such a big part of me wants to walk away from this blog, and if it was mine, I would have. Who knows, maybe I will. But for now, in the midst of my discernment, I’ve decided to be me, well because He told me to. I find it monotonous to read pieces of people’s minds that seem regurgitated over and over again like a broken record. There are few people I admire in my line of work and fewer Christians than that. It’s not because they agree with me, in fact most of the time they do not. It’s because they stand their ground without getting emotional, they stand for something, and they can have a conversation about it without telling me they’re right. They don’t have to. I usually discover that through the way God uses them. 

So when I started to read the book, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, the tears couldn’t come out of my eyes fast enough. It was a glimpse into my own feelings and struggles with the system, my current struggle to keep up with a system that devours most people and an honest look about fighting for something, that is so much bigger than you could ever be.

Bryan Stevenson is a young black Harvard law graduate who went on to found Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit devoted to defending poor people on death row in the heart of Alabama. I saw Bryan’s professor Tony Campolo from Eastern Bible College speak at a local event I was writing for, and his story changed my life. Months later I ran head first into this book and remembered the story of a young black attorney from a small bible college who went on to Harvard law. But he didn’t choose to work for a posh firm in New York where he could have made millions. He chose to start his organization in Alabama, defending the most hated men on the planet, because he believed in God and he believed in mercy. People hated him for what he did but he did it anyway, and many innocent men were exonerated and their lives spared as a result of his selfless work.

A quote early on in the book caught my attention and has been sitting in the very pit of my stomach. Bryan’s grandmother told him, “You can’t understand most of the important things from a distance Bryan. You have to get close.” And that set the tone for the book, and for this stage of my life, where often I find myself closer than I ever would want to be.

The book quotes Thomas Merton as saying, “We are bodies of broken bones.” And Bryan asks a poignant and turning point question, “Why do we want to kill all the broken people?” It means more than it says if you take the time to read between the lines.

You need to get and read the book if you are on a search for truth, which is what the book is about. It will change you. It changed me. Bryan gives us so much to think about while showing mercy in a way that I have never seen captured before. He didn’t talk about being Christian in the book, except a few places here and there where he mentions growing up in church and speaking sometimes at churches, but he didn’t have to, Jesus was bleeding all over those pages. 

If we’re gonna be real out here, we need to be honest, and start having some honest dialogue. Maybe I’ll stay, maybe I’ll go. I’m gonna do Christianity the way Jesus is showing me, the only way I know how- real, honest and transparent, being refined in the fire, hurting along the way, but knowing there is someone out there who reads these words and knows they’ve found the truth.

I hope you’ll stay with me on this rocky leg of my journey, as I find myself in the uncharted waters in the boat Jesus is sleeping in. What’s the point of being out here if we’re not exposed? There’s room in the boat for you too if you’re willing to come with me, and maybe take some people with you that you’ve never thought of bringing before.

Till’ next time…