Justice and Mercy


Some would say that the main function of the Gospel is to improve life in earthly arenas such as marriages, families, businesses and societies. Though we do not preach a “social gospel,” the Christ-centered Gospel does create those earthly changes for which it calls. Just as marital relationships improve naturally (or supernaturally) as an effect of the Gospel in the lives of believers, so too do relationships improve with the poor, the lonely, the oppressed, the estranged, the outcast—the other. We need to know how those relational changes truly come about, and how they serve the purposes of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

All those who believe in Jesus have been born of God (John 1:12-13), made alive together with Christ (Eph. 2:4-5), and given the Spirit and a new heart (Ezek. 36:26-27). God has radically changed us in his mercy, and has given us a hope that does not disappoint because his love has already been poured out into our hearts through the Spirit (Rom. 5:5). The revealed mystery of Christ in us is the hope of glory (Col. 1:25-27), and we have been sealed by the Spirit for this glorious future inheritance of eternal fellowship with God (Eph. 1:13-14). There is no race, class, or gender division in Christ (Gal. 3:28), but all are one body (Eph. 4:4), one holy temple of the Lord (Eph. 2:19-22), a people of God to proclaim his excellencies (1 Pet. 2:9), and children through Christ to the praise of the glory of God’s grace (Eph. 1:5-6).

Built up on the foundation of Christ (1 Cor. 3:11), we are those who worship God with our lives (Rom. 12:1-2), in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24)—for such worshipers the Father seeks. He does not want our lip service (Is. 29:13-14), but our hearts. Our religion and worship are a stench to God if done from a heart far from him. But what is good religion and worship?

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27). “Is this not the fast [religious practice] that I [the LORD] choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn…” (Is. 58:6-8a, emphasis mine).

The thing to remember here is that we are of the same flesh with the poor and suffering of the world. Are we any better than they? Did God see something in us that was absent in them, that he would give us life and health? Does the color of our skin, the money in our wallets, the clothing we wear or the home in which we live have anything to do with who receives favor from the Lord? May it never be!

Compassionate effort toward social justice, when done from a heart close to God, is a major part of the worship God seeks. So let us not withhold the favor we have freely received—whether spiritual or material—from those in need. Let us not sing and pray and fast while ignoring the sufferings of those around us. Rather, let us show that we are indeed in the true faith of God by our good works (James 2:14-26), for which we were created in Christ (Eph. 2:10). Let us eagerly remember the poor (Gal. 2:10). Let us work hard, so that we will have something to share with those who have none (Eph. 4:28). Let us labor mightily with the power (Col. 1:28-29) and the grace (1 Cor. 15:10) of God, to bring the light of the Gospel to every person. Let us hold our faith without an attitude of personal favoritism (James 2:1-13), but pursue Christ in and above all things (Phil. 3:7-11), especially those small things that might benefit the least of individuals (Matt. 25:31-46).

“Whoever serves is to do so as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Pet. 4:11).

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