Jesus in his life, death and resurrection has turned the world upside down, beginning the work of relieving the disastrous effects of depravity and righting the injustices caused by the fall. Jesus was clear with his disciples that the mission of the church was to make disciples (Matt. 28:19) and in doing so implement the gospel in all its glorious facets.
At The Village Church, we believe a disciple is someone who is maturing in gospel-centered worship, gospel-centered community, gospel-centered service and gospel-centered multiplication. Mercy and justice are two of the many components of gospel-centered service and gospel-centered multiplication expressed in the life of a believer.
So what are mercy and justice? More than mere buzzwords, when we speak of mercy and justice we are referring to prioritizing, protecting and caring for the weak and vulnerable by working to counter injustice at every level of society.
Those who show mercy are sensitive to the needs of others, with a proactive desire to alleviate those needs. Those who are just are compelled to open their eyes to injustice, purposely taking responsibility to make things right for the oppressed.
Because God is a God of unbelievable mercy and generous justice, those who are being transformed into the image of Christ will also be merciful and just. We cannot adopt a defeatist mentality that the world is too far gone to do anything about it. Nor can we assume that it all depends on us, that there isn’t a reason to earnestly pray, “Lord Jesus, come quickly.”
We live in the tension that God’s kingdom has been inaugurated but not fully realized. God’s mercy and justice are truly present, though not fully present. We live as a people simultaneously motivated by both the resurrection and the return of Christ toward attitudes and actions of mercy and justice.
The degree to which you believe that Christ was raised and that God will ultimately make all things new is the degree to which you will be motivated to work toward that new world now. So where are you? Do you find yourself unmotivated to do something because the task seems overwhelming? Do you find yourself crippled by the fear that it all depends on you?
Practically speaking, how should we be a people marked by mercy and justice?
Start small. When thinking of all the areas in the world marked by deep need and vast injustice, we can feel overwhelmed about where to begin. Don’t try to come up with a plan to eradicate all injustice in one fell swoop. Start small and allow the Lord to grow your efforts.
Start serving. We must be willing to get involved in the lives of others. We must be willing to give our time, energy and resources. This is necessarily costly. But consider the great cost that was paid in order to show believers mercy and make us right before God. The gospel must go past intellect and penetrate our hearts to give us proper motivation for serving.
Give wisely. A people marked by mercy and justice will seek to help meet physical needs such as water, food, clothing and shelter. This could also involve medical services, legal aid and crisis counseling. Giving must be done in wisdom so as not to create patterns of dependency, but fear of creating dependency must not prevent giving. In addition, mercy and justice work toward building self-sufficiency through providing education, job training and life skills necessary to human flourishing.
Look around you. Consider the reality that God has placed you in a specific location for a reason. What about the people who live next door to you or on your street? Are there any widows or widowers who could use some company or service on their house? Is there a single mom who would be blessed by a pantry of groceries?
Lock arms with others. In addition to working in your immediate neighborhood, research local non-profits and organizations that are already working in ministries of mercy and justice. What local organizations in your community are already working to serve the poor and hungry? What shelters exist for battered women and children where you can volunteer? What nursing homes and senior living facilities are there in your community? Are there halfway houses and rehab facilities where you can work to help those recovering from sin and suffering?
Christians are called to love (Matt. 22:39; Luke 10:25-37) and serve their neighbors (1 John 3:17-18). Jesus lived an exemplary life of mercy and justice, which is given to us as an example to follow. It is time to repent of any hint of consumerism that has crept into the church. The gospel calls us to ministry characterized by word and deed, both gospel proclamation and gospel service. May we follow in the example of Christ, who perfectly modeled mercy and justice.