When I say mercy is for mission, I’m not talking about the mission of mercy and justice in the world as a witness to all of the power of the gospel (at least, not right now). Rather, I’m talking about the mercy God has poured out on all sinners in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus. For “Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy.” (Rom. 15:8, 9)
The mission of God has always been to pour out his mercy on all peoples, first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. This had always been the purpose of God’s promise to Abraham that through him “All nations will be blessed” (Gen. 22:18). But this mission causes church conflict. In fact, you should expect and welcome conflict in your church.
Its true. St. Paul says as much in Romans 15. Verse 7 says that we should “welcome one another just as Christ welcomed you,” and the act of Christ welcoming us is the act of God’s mercy. But how each person receives God’s mercy is based in exactly how it is they have been astranged from God. For me, my pride and arrogance kept me far from God, but the humility of Christ finally overwhelmed me. But for someone else living in fear, it might have been the love and power of Christ which expressed God’s mercy most potently. Now, as I reflect and live in the the grace and mercy I’ve come to know, it is usually through a lense of pride because that is where I came from . But for others it will be different. Now extend this to entire cultures.
This is exactly what happened when Jews and Gentiles began worshipping together. God’s mercy extended to the Gentiles and some Jews began wondering if they needed to be circumscribe and needed to follow the Jewish food laws, etc, etc (Read Acts 15 and Gal. 1 for more details, also Romans 14 and 1 Cor. 8 and 10). God’s mission caused all sorts of church conflicts, the conflict between cultures, but also between individuals.
But often times we end up using God’s mercy against others, we use our faith history as a weapon against others who have experienced God’s mercy differently. Some want to preach the gospel through social action, some through street preaching. Some want to save the poor, others the environment. Some see a besetting sin, others a disputable matter.
And these naturally cause conflicts. But we must remember that God’s mercy is for mission, and the mercy we have received should help us to build up our neighbor (15:2) and our freedom should not become a stumbling block to a brother or sister (14:13).