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Come together in times of conflict and disagreement

Published 9:14am Friday, May 9, 2014

By the Rev. Peter Soli

Interim pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Wells

Mercy and truth have met each other: justice and peace have kissed. Psalm 85:10

Jesus said that “the truth will set you free.” Therefore it only makes sense that in churches where I have served there are characters who, in their eagerness for the truth, brandish a bright light aiming it at shadows and myths. However, in times of conflict both sides arm themselves with what they see and claim that truth is on their side. We have all seen particular versions of the truth paraded before others like winning arguments before a judge.

Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan to a lawyer who had challenged him. At the end of the story he admonished the lawyer (and by extension all of his followers) to show mercy. The Bible is filled with stories of forgiveness and mercy. So, it only makes sense that in churches where I have served there are characters who, in their eagerness for mercy call for acceptance, compassion and understanding. They tenderly remind us of our imperfections and weaknesses as they implore the judge to act with leniency.

Jesus made enemies when he decried the injustices of his day. It makes sense that in churches where I have served there a characters who, in their eagerness for justice make a pageant of penalties and policies designed to repair the damage done by greed, wrongdoing and inequality. They demand accountability and action and refuse to let things rest until satisfied.

Jesus also said, “Peace be with you.” So, in the churches where I have served, there are characters who are eager for peace. They seek to hold the community together with the glue of safety, respect and well-being. They set the stage for reconciliation. When reconciliation has been achieved they host the party. However, those who most value truth, mercy and justice are uneasy with the peacemakers unless each is truly heard and valued.

Psalm 85 provides a guiding vision for our life together in community. It is about reconciliation and the folly of our fighting. Neither mercy, truth, justice nor peace stand alone, they need each other. We need each other. Especially at times of conflict and disagreement.

Truth needs mercy to contend with the fact that each of us is weak, imperfect and in need of support. Mercy needs truth in order to slow down and remember the truth sets us free. Justice is needed in order that we have accountability and action but it is of little value without compassion and peace. Reconciliation comes when, as the psalmist declares: “Mercy and truth have met together; justice and peace have kissed.” This is where community grows and is nourished.