Full Christian Mercy
I’ve been thinking about Christians responsibility to minister to others in a physical manner as well as spiritually. A lot of times Evangelical Christians criticize other Christians, saying that they dilute the gospel–that they are doing good works but neglecting the preaching of the gospel. There may be some truth to that; I don’t know. I have never been directly involved in a non-Baptist church, so I have no right to judge. What I do know is that we, as evangelicals, tend to fail in the opposite direction.
Think about the programs a typical Baptist church offers: Awana, Sunday School, Bible studies, prayer groups, etc. What do they all have in common? They are focused on those people who are already believers. These ministries do a fantastic job of preaching the truth but do little or nothing for people’s physical well-being.
We, as Christians, are called to be God’s vessels of mercy here on Earth. That mercy should be shown in every part of life. It’s shown in preaching forgiveness of sins, but it’s also shown in care towards the poor, and neither one is to be neglected in favor of the other. Look at Christ’s ministry on Earth. Did He spend every waking moment proclaiming the gospel verbally? No! Did He go around saying, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled”? No! Never! And if He did, the person was instantly warm and instantly filled.
Christ’s Earthly ministry was characterized by radical love for people. This love manifested in preaching of the truth, yes, but He also showed genuine compassion for people’s physical needs. Compassion is a word that gets bandied around a great deal in modern times. It resembles “love” in that people see it as more of a feeling than an action. Look to Christ for a better example. When the Bible says, “Jesus had compassion on them,” it always tells immediately afterwards of how He ministered to physical needs. He cured the sick, healed the blind; He fed the hungry and raised the dead. He even did something as seemingly trivial as providing wine for a wedding. This is our example.
The early church was so concerned with this issue of physical mercy that they created a special office just to help with the logistics of administering this mercy. That’s what the deacons originally were intended to be; in general, that’s not what they now are, but Church government is a discussion for another day.
If the early church concerned themselves so much with physical mercy, if Christ, the greatest preacher and speaker of truth of all time, spent a considerable portion ministering in a radical, physical manner to lepers and the poor, we cannot ignore the fullness of our ministry of mercy.
When Christians have mercy as they are called to, when we strive daily to achieve perfect love, then the world will be changed.