Mercy Ministry

Posted: July 20, 2011 in Uncategorized

I wanted to follow up a bit on our text from this past Sunday where Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.” (Matt 5:7) in order to help us think through and apply it to our church. To begin with, there is an article by Tim Keller that does a very good job explaining this part of our ministry. After which I would encourage you to watch an interview that helps us think through some concerns connected with this issue.

First, a quote from the article:

Mercy ministry is working to alleviate the burdens of another person, it is meeting their real or perceived needs through Gospel driven deeds. Mercy Ministry is kingdom ministry. It incorporates all of the effects of the coming of the kingdom of God and thus is a visual, viable representation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, through whom all things are redeemed, first partially in the old covenant, then really and more fully in the new covenant, and finally and completely in the kingdom to come. This kingdom principle and God’s own pattern of “mercy ministry” can be traced throughout Scripture, beginning at creation and continued through these last days.

In creation, God demonstrates his concern for mankind and the world in establishing the principle of dominion, through which man is called to rule the earth as God’s viceroy, for man’s good and God’s glory. In the fall, all of man’s relationships are shattered: with God (a theological destruction); with himself (a spiritual destruction); with others (a social destruction); and with nature (a physical destruction). God mercifully sets out to heal all of the destruction wrought by man in the fall, and we see this story of redemption unfold throughout Scripture. Mercy ministry primarily seeks to redeem physical and social destruction, but is often carried out as a window to spiritual and theological redemption.

God’s first act of mercy toward man occurs in Genesis Chapter 3, when He provides Adam and Eve coverings to avert the shame caused by their recognition of one another’s nakedness after eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, their first act of disobedience. This is the first act of mercy recorded in all of human history, so the Father’s provision of covering is in fact the paradigm of mercy followed by the rest of the Old Testament Scripture (and that we are called to follow as well): in Job we see a pre-mosaic representation of mercy in his providing for the needy; in the law, God requires social and moral righteousness from his people; and through the prophets mercy to the poor is represented as evidence of faith, God’s people are judged as covenant breakers for failing to show mercy to the poor, and the Messiah is characterized as one who will show mercy to the poor.

The incarnation of the Son of God is the most complete illustration of mercy that we are given in Scripture. Jesus Christ is the true Adam, who subdues all creation to God causing it to bear fruit for God’s glory; He is the great high priest who extends mercy and forgiveness to all in need; and he is the great deacon who identifies with and pours himself out in costly service to the poor. Through his preaching and miracles, Christ demonstrates how the kingdom of God restores all of creation and how the effects of sin are healed under His rule. The incarnation ultimately illustrates God’s mercy in that Christ humbles himself in many ways and to great depths in order to alleviate the burden of sin. Jesus Christ is described as being mighty in word and deed and we are called to follow him as our example.

In these last days, the church represents Christ to the world, following his preaching and example by working to heal all the effects of the fall, thereby manifesting the redemptive kingdom of God. The internalized reality of the gospel is the primary (original and foundational) motivation for Christians to show mercy. If we truly know and comprehend fully that we were enemies of God saved by mercy alone, we are both open and generous to the outcasts and unlovely. Christians are clearly called to follow Christ’s example in humble service by each of us setting aside ourselves and considering others first. Jesus clearly teaches in Matthew 25 that we will be judged not only based on our profession of faith but also on our deeds. The call to mercy is not only to the individual Christian, but to the church corporately.

And here is the interview:

May God grant us His wisdom and grace as we seek to extend mercy to those in need.

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