December 16, 2009

Mercy and Justice

I just finished writing my last essay for this semester at Asbury Theological Seminary on the topic of Mercy and Justice. Parts of that essay are included below but what I really wanted to share was this video I came across and especially highlight the thoughts from Dr. Ben Witherington III ("Ben") talking about the same issues...

It is apparent throughout John Wesley’s ministry and theology that he was quite passionate about issues of mercy and justice. Wesley’s desire to preach the good news to the poor, reaching not only their spiritual needs but their physical needs as well, is what led him to the fields and marketplaces of his day seeing that his own church, The Church of England, was making no effort to do so. This is precisely why the majority of Wesley’s hearers were made up of poor laborers such as miners, quarrymen, iron smelters and soldiers. When speaking of the ad populum (the bulk of mankind) Wesley wrote in a letter to Dorothy Furley dated September 25, 1757, “I love the poor, in many of them I find pure, genuine grace, unmixed with paint, folly, and affectation.” The passion and love that Wesley had for the poor of his day is undeniable.

The issues of mercy and justice demand a response from us today, especially those who would consider themselves to be disciples of Jesus, regardless of denominational tradition. We are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39) and when we stop to realize that everyone is our neighbor we can no longer ignore the injustice, persecution and poverty that is present all around us. This is a love that displays itself through actions of justice and gestures of mercy to “the least of these” as described by Jesus in Matthew 25:31-46, which typically are individuals who have no means of seeking justice and are often times shown no mercy. It is this “way of love” we must seek because without it “all we know, all we believe, all we do, all we suffer, will profit us nothing in the great day of accounts” (John Wesley, The More Excellent Way, 4.).