Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Mercy and Justice in Islam and Christianity

David Neff writes in December's Christianity Today (p42):

"One insight from the "Loving God and Neighbor [sic] Together" dialogue between Muslims and Christians held this July at Yale University was the difference between our understandings of love, compassion, and mercy.
"The Christian participants had been taught by Jesus that love should be indiscriminate - just as the mercy shown by the Good Samaritan was conditioned on nothing but the wounded mans need. That may not be the way we generally behave, but... it is the standard against which we measure ourselves.
"The Muslim participants startled us Christians by talking about the limits their religion brought to their compassion. Orphans, widows, and others in need through no fault of their own deserve compassion, they said. But in Islamic ethics, there was no obligation to help the person whose drunkenness or gambling or otherwise unwise behavior [sic] put them in difficulty.
"Reflecting on what I heard those Muslim leaders say, the tension was not between a generous God and a stingy God... but between mercy that was defined and conditioned by justice (the Muslim view) and justice that was conditioned and defined by mercy (the Christian view)."

Now, pardon the long quote, but isn't that seriously interesting? Our view of God radically affects the way we view ourselves and treat other people. Some questions for discussion:
  1. What advantages does the Muslim view hold?
  2. If you were/are a Muslim how would you differentiate between those who were deserving of mercy and those who were not (e.g. an alchoholic orphan)?
  3. If you (Mulsim/Christian/other) have ever received compassion what was it about you that brought compassion from others?
  4. On what grounds do we (anybody) expect God to have compassion on us?
  5. If you are a Christian how do you ensure that you love indiscriminately, like your God?

Let me know what you think :)

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