I co-lead a small group with Laura, my friend and fellow youth ministry intern. Our cluster of curious minded people does not, however, fit the typical mold of a classic small group. For starters, we meet in a bar. Every Tuesday at 6:30 we stroll into the comfortable, micro-brew aromatic atmosphere of ‘The Tap Room’ in Pacific Beach. It is not the sort of small group where you bear one-another’s burdens as much as it is a group of people who feed off one another’s inquisitions. Rather than opening the King James we open the tasty list of Happy Hour brews. It is a group of people who have questions, ideas, romanticisms, and a cumulative passion to discover a deeper reality of the transforming love of Christ.
Last week we found ourselves entrenched in a contagious discussion over the definitive contrast of grace, mercy, and compassion. The topic ignited because I am an inquisitive. The previous week I had over-heard a story being told fom a friend of mine who was pulled over by a cop for speeding. The cop ceased to perform his duties by handing over a hefty ticket to my friend, and chose instead to let her off, free and clear. My friend proceeded to say that the cop showed her grace, but then the listener of the story corrected the action by claiming to cop was merciful. To where I found myself asking, “So what’s the difference?” And this is how we got into the discussion of the three seemingly interchangeable characteristic verbs of grace, mercy, and compassion.
It was a well-oiled conversation that I am continuing to re-play over and over in my mind. Of these three things I wonder if they are one in the same. In the similar fashion that h20 can hold three different forms but remain one defined substance; can grace, mercy, and compassion represent three different facets yet exist as one true entity? Can you have one without the others?
Each week I anticipate what will surface during our “Theology on Tap” discussions. It is an unpredictable and unstructured group of followers of Jesus, clumsily working out our faith and learning to take on and shamelessly reflect the image of the one we follow. As skeptics, mystics, and romantics we have found a place where we can marinate in the questions of life and purpose.