The risk of showing mercy

Photo: Mauricio Lima (Creative Commons Flickr)

A time to grieve with France, America’s first ally. Photo: Mauricio Lima (Creative Commons Flickr)

Homicidal hatred. That’s what the Vatican called yesterday’s attacks in Paris, and I completely agree.

I would use the word tragic, but tragedy involves happenstance. There was no element of chance last night. The attacks were purposeful and deliberate. More than tragic, they were monstrous and cruel.

Today we grieve with with the people of Paris, with families whose loved ones were “soft targets,” easy marks for violence. What did they do to deserve such hatred?

And yet Jesus said, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you… (Matthew 5:44, King James Bible)

He did not say this would be easy. Jesus is like that. He challenges those who follow Him to show mercy, to take risks.

Where I work, I see this kind of risk and mercy lived out. Three mornings a week we host English classes for Muslim refugees on our church campus. These are legal, documented refugees–and most are Iraqi women. Members of our church family (retired teachers and volunteers) teach the classes. New students come fearfully, reluctant to even enter a church building.

Ah, but just inside the door are Bob and his team with smiles and coffee. An “enemy” with coffee and friendship? The fear doesn’t last long. Kindness and love are like that–they drive out fear. Each year our classes have grown larger, and students are eager to come. Because our high school classrooms share the same hallway, I am able to greet them. How happy these women are to respond with their new English skills!

“Why are the Christians the only ones to help us?” We have heard this more than a few times. The way we see it, these refugees are fellow humans in need. Why wouldn’t we reach out with the love of Christ? And a cup of coffee? And used furniture for their apartments? And day-old bread and produce collected from the local New Seasons market?

Will our mercy one day work against us? Will these English students turn on us with violent hatred? It’s a legitimate question, and one the French are asking. Their welcome was repaid with murder. And so we grieve with them.

“Where words fail, music speaks.” ~ Hans Christian Anderson

And thank you, Carryl, for sharing this video on Facebook.

7 thoughts on “The risk of showing mercy

  1. Susan Kaye

    In many ways, Christ calls us to be “soft targets.”

    I served in the military and am in no way a passivist. I believe in the Just War Theory, but also know that the Holy Spirit is, this minute, working His way through the conscience of people with nothing in their lives but murderous intent. I also know there are some well-dressed and mannered tares in the wheat field that is the church.

    On a more basic level, Paris is the horrible proof that we sometimes bring the viper to our own bosom and expect it to become a kitten.

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    1. Laura Hile

      Yes, mercy needs to be balanced with common sense. Bringing a large number of refugees, from a nation with whom we are at war (officially or not) is very unwise. People have bandied about the Syrian “Trojan Horse” idea, and it is worth consideration.

      Most of the refugees our church serve are families (wives, husbands, and children–together) under a protection program. Coming to the USA was not a matter of choice but of lottery.

      Friendship can disarm fear and hate. We offer help and the message of the gospel. How people respond is a matter of individual choice.

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      1. Susan Kaye

        Immigration overseen by an organization, or even our slap-dash government is better than standing aside and watching crowds saunter on in. Unfortunately, many think we have evolved beyond that old fashioned notion of boarders and such. As we saw in Paris, it may not be all, many or some in a wave of humanity that are the problem. It took less than ten people to kill and maim a few hundred and put us all on notice that when they say they want to kill us, maybe we should take them seriously.

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  2. Sophia Rose

    So hard not the throw the baby out with the bath water in these situations. And I do think a giving spirit is important particularly on a one on one level. I live in one of the largest Arab populations in the US (Dearborn, MI and the surrounding areas). I assisted many with basic needs, English classes, and Job Seeking Skills, and I exchanged hospitality in their homes. I think it is the right thing to do.
    But I also think common sense about national safety needs to be employed. Intelligence gathering, defense plans, tight security at the borders and within the immigration department, and vigilance. An ounce of prevention and all that… It’s not too much to ask, but you’d think it was the way some in the government acts.
    I’ve talked to many Muslims. They are as angry as the next guy about ISIS and have the go get ’em, tiger attitude. They would be happy if the government went after them. So why the current government pussy foots about offending folks I really don’t understand.

    Good post, Laura!

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  3. Robin Helm

    State governors have decided to stand up against the federal government on this issue. Our governor has finally said that South Carolina will not be Obama’s haven for Syrian refugees. Most of them would be like the people Laura speaks of. It only takes 4 or 5 of them to blow up Williams-Brice Stadium or the one at Clemson, and 80,000 people could die.

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Why yes, we DO want a piece of your mind. ;-)

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