Pastor Harrison in his book Christ, Have Mercy has an amazing chapter which is given mostly over to a story about Lutherans living in Kenya. The Kenyan peoples have been hit not only by poverty, but by AIDS. The images, sights and sounds which Pastor Harrison recalls as he tells the story of helping to build an orphanage near a Lutheran parish in the slums are simply amazing. I wish I could reprint it for you here. But I can't. What I can do is talk about why the story about the poor orphans of the AIDS crisis is so important and powerful, especially to the ears of Christians. It's the same reason Pastor Harrison told the story: “Before doing, mercy is about who God is.”
Sometimes as Americans, living in a culture which still feeds off the dregs of a thousands years of Christian influence, we might begin to think that having mercy upon those who are suffering is only natural. But it's not. A few weeks in the slums of India – where their ancient religion actually teaches that sick and poor people of the lower castes not only deserve what they have, but that if you help them, you deserve it too – will quickly highlight how much the Christian idea of charity has influenced the western world. But even charity, left to itself, will quickly become a wasted breath and an empty ideal. I have met atheists and Darwinians who insist that “love is my religion” – not exactly a natural outcome of “survival of the fittest.” And I have met pop-philosophers who say, “Don't push your morality on me,” unwittingly insisting in one phrase that 1. There is no morality and 2. I need to submit to their standard of morality, which amounts to my not disagreeing with anything they say.The hinge of difficulty is that no moral ideals make any sense in a survival of the fittest, dog-eat-dog, no-future-but-death world. But God changes all that.
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