We evangelicals within the United Methodist Church sometimes get our dander up when we hear the term “social justice”. It is true that it has become a “buzz-word” for the liberal political agenda that is at work within our church on the part of the “progressives”. Glenn Beck of the Fox News Network recently told us that if we hear the words “social justice” in our church we should run out the door as fast as we can. Many of us are familiar with that same feeling.

Bishop Sally Dyck of the Minnesota Annual Conference writes on the AC website that

“…Wesley practiced works of mercy and works of justice. Wesley didn’t just give food to the hungry, money to the poor, and a prayer for those gripped by 18th-century economic depression. He worked for social and economic justice in his day.

He advocated against slavery, undoubtedly distressing some ship captains and merchants along the way. He called for government to increase employment opportunities and to add taxes on every horse imported from France as well as on every “gentlemen’s carriage.” Actually John Wesley’s economic justice efforts mirror many of the recommendations developed by the Minnesota Commission to Eliminate Poverty by 2020.

However, Wesley refused to issue harsh criticism—what I might call uncivil discourse—against the rulers of his day, including the monarchy. He stayed on message, not making it personal or demeaning of others. That in itself would be a good lesson for many of us (of all political persuasions) to follow.

Mercy and justice met together in John Wesley and it’s a part of who we are as United Methodists.”

I rarely agree with Bishop Dyck, to say nothing of applauding her. But I think she’s right on target with this. Just because we are evangelical doesn’t mean we are not Wesleyan.

It’s true that the scripture tells us that if God were to count our sins, that no one could stand. We don’t want God to work justice in our lives. No, we beg for mercy. The mercy of God is our only hope if we are to escape the “wrath to come”.

But there are things in the world and right here in our country that call for justice. We don’t want the poorest of the poor to slip through our safety nets. We want them fed and warm and safe. And we don’t want people to be discriminated against because of their race or religion. We need to work for justice in areas like that.

But in all things, we are called by our Lord Jesus Christ to act with mercy towards all people. If that means that they don’t have to deal with the consequences of their own actions, we still are called to act with mercy. If that means allowing people more than they deserve, we still are called to act with mercy. Whatever ways we have to deal with people in this world, Jesus calls us to act with mercy. Mercy always seems to trump justice.

Maybe that’s why Micah 6:8 says we are to do justice, but love mercy.