Get Proximate: The Art Of Radical Mercy & Staying Hopeful In COVID Times
In this article, the Vineyard Justice Network addresses the question, "Is there a both/and way to get proximate to the challenges and contradictions that influence our communities and keep Jesus at the center?"
Vineyard Justice Network
Get Proximate: The Art of Radical Mercy & Staying Hopeful
We know we want to develop a Kingdom-life centered approach to the myriad hot-button issues of our time, but do we know how to “get proximate”?
Oftentimes, we, the church, can shy away from issues like immigration, abortion, racism, and mass incarceration, instead of getting proximate to them, out of fear of offending or simply not knowing how to engage. Many churches include folks who will criticize their leaders for avoiding them, while others implore their pastors to avoid any topic that seems “political.”
In light of these tensions, is there a both/and way to get proximate to the challenges and contradictions that influence our communities and keep Jesus at the center?
1. GET PROXIMATE TO MERCY
In the Vineyard movement, we seek to heal fractures, not permit and perpetuate them. John Wimber, known as the father of the Vineyard movement, fused our core Vineyard value of “partnering with the Holy Spirit” with the pursuit of God’s mercy and compassion:
“The manifest presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our midst is connected, inseparably, to His mercy and compassion. God will not be treated like a smorgasbord as though we can pick and choose what suits us best. That’s not the way that it works. It is impossible to have one without the other. We just wouldn’t survive the surgery.” – John Wimber, The Way In Is The Way On
The the wind of the Holy Spirit is calling us to get proximate to God’s radical mercy in this moment, as a way to properly prepare and align our hearts in the pursuit of God’s justice.
When we get proximate to people most impacted by racial injustice or any issue of inequity, it fosters Kingdom mercy. Kingdom mercy clears out the fog of confusion stirred up by politicians and news media, who try so hard to infect us with their perspectives of what is normative.
Radical mercy is the antidote to the spirit of divisive partisanship and retributive justice.
2. NO UNDESERVING POOR
Within a Kingdom framework, there are no “undeserving poor,” no one who should stay in bondage or captivity because it will teach them a lesson better than the mercy of freedom and salvation could. Rather, a Kingdom framework reserves judgment for the self-righteous, the privileged, and powerful. The Scriptures continually bear witness to the offense of God’s radical mercy through Jesus.
3. MERCY, NOT MERITOCRACY
In Dominique Dubois Gilliard’s book, Rethinking Incarceration, he offers the helpful term of “meritocracy.” Meritocracy insidiously distorts how people see themselves in juxtaposition to others. A “them and us” worldview replaces community with increased distance and even fear. Power and privilege drive victimization; the “war on drugs” and mass incarceration unjustly impacting people of color are examples. When the church is immersed in nationalism and partisanship, both its distinction and its purpose are compromised.
4. GETTING PROXIMATE AND LOVING MERCY DURING A PANDEMIC AND RACIAL UNREST:
Yakima Vineyard and Ann Arbor Vineyard offer two examples of drawing close to the poor and marginalized, even as fear of getting deathly sick or spreading the virus to loved ones is very real.
VJN Contributors: Kathy Maskell, Donnell Wyche, Dave Hanson, Cheryl Pittluck, Hana Lehmann, Steven Hamilton
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Vineyard Justice Network seeks to empower Vineyard pastors and leaders to pursue and enact the justice of God’s kingdom. Learn more and connect with them here!