Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Mercy Ministry and the Two Kingdoms, Part Two: Mercy's Mandate

We have seen that, upon man’s fall, God’s one, all-encompassing kingdom was divided, and a new set of categories was introduced. Holy activity (worship and sacrifice) was now distinguished from common activity (sowing and reaping), and the sacred realm (the covenant community) became distinct from the secular realm (the common grace city). In a word, after man’s fall his world was divinely re-ordered, the spiritual kingdom of God and the temporal city of man being separated. And with the exception of the typological Jewish theocracy under the Mosaic covenant, this situation has continued ever since.

Due to his woeful and self-inflicted condition, man now stands in need of mercy, of pity, and of compassionate aid. Both the Old and New Testaments provide ample warrant for the ministry of mercy toward those in need. In Deuteronomy 24:19-22 we read:
“When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this.”

Likewise in the New Testament, our Lord’s parable about the Samaritan—whom we call “the Good Samaritan,” though he was only doing what the law commanded—teaches us that being one’s neighbor entails more than mere geographical proximity, it means showing mercy. “You go,” Jesus told the crowd, “and do likewise” (Luke 10:37). This principle is also found in the writings of Paul: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:9-10).

There is no question, therefore, that the generous showing of mercy is commanded in both the Old and New Testaments, and ought to characterize the lives of all those who have been the beneficiaries of the bountiful mercy of God.

But a few qualifications are in order; Don't touch that dial....