This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Missionaries of mercy

The story of thrift store manager Suzette Shreffler’s practice of dealing with thieves is inspiring and challenging. After confronting a man she caught stealing, she had him volunteer for an hour, gave him something to eat and talked to him about Jesus.

He decided to follow Jesus that day. One month later, he was killed in a car accident.

What if Shreffler had just called the police like most people would have done?

Her story is an example of the kind of peaceful and restorative practices we often promote as alternatives to settling conflicts with force after the manner of the world. She chose a “third way” of handling the situation, and a soul was welcomed into the kingdom of God.

It is more common to hear stories like this from people who work in “ministry” occupations. But the reality is that God won’t call all of us to be missionary thrift store managers in low-income communities.

Our occupations will differ, but we all are called to mercy (Luke 10:37) and mission (Matt. 28:19-20). We are missionaries of mercy or, to use a New Testament term, “ministers of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:16-21).

How needed this calling is! Mercy is not the usual course of action we see taken around us. Mercy stands in sharp contrast to the self-protection and alienation that prevail outside the kingdom of God.

Though we may not have experiences as dramatic as confronting a store thief, we can be faithful in small things (Luke 16:10). Something as small as yielding in an intersection or a grocery store checkout line dispenses a pinch of peace into the world. Choosing a gracious response to unfavorable treatment or patience with another’s transgression releases a whiff of the aroma of mercy. Reducing the heat in a political or theological debate unleashes a gentle breeze that relieves and restores.

How can our faithfulness to the ministry of reconciliation counteract the rage of this world? Showing mercy is one way to start.

If we practice the ministry of reconciliation in small ways in everyday life, we will be better prepared to remain faithful in more difficult situations.

As we pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven, our choices to show mercy bring the kingdom here a little more.

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