Mark S. Mitchell

Pastor, Writer, Follower of Jesus

A Legacy of Mercy

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Is the legacy of Christianity merciful or merciless? Yesterday I preached on 1 John 3:11-24. The message was called, “Love Life” because at the heart of the message was the idea that those who claim to know God must love like God. I had intended to include a quote from historian Rodney Stark in which he argues that Christianity’s emphasis on mercy was the primary factor that captured the attention of the ancient world. Stark writes: “In the midst of the squalor, misery, illness, and anonymity of ancient cities, Christianity provided an island of mercy and security. In contrast, in the pagan world, and especially among the philosophers, mercy was regarded as a character defect and pity as a pathological emotion: because mercy involves providing unearned help or relief, it is contrary to justice. Thus humans must learn to curb the impulse to show mercy. Showing mercy was a defect of character unworthy of the wise and excusable only in those who have not yet grown up. This was the moral climate in which Christianity taught that a merciful God requires humans to be merciful.” My hope is that the church today might continue this legacy of mercy while still holding onto the truth of the Word of God.

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