I’m sure that you have a favourite verse or passage from the Bible. One of my favourites is Galatians 6:9-10 “let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Why is this one of my favourite texts? For two reasons: First, it recognises that ministry and service for Jesus can be hard work, and encourages us to press on and fulfil our various callings; second, it defines what a believer, or body of believers, that is committed to honouring Christ should be like – merciful. We are to “do good” to all people – believer and unbeliever alike.

So what does it mean to “do good”? It refers to what some have called “the practical Gospel”, sharing the love of God in Christ in deed as well as word, showing mercy to others. Earlier in the chapter Paul gives a couple of examples of what this “mercy ministry” involves – “carrying each other’s burdens” (6:2) and providing for the support of Christian teachers (6:6). Most Christians are comfortable with the idea that we should love and care for our fellow believers. But God clearly demands that we go further; that we should extend similar love and care to those who are outside our Christian community.

The story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) clearly defines our neighbour as anyone – relative, friend, acquaintance, stranger or enemy – who is in need. The Old Testament in particular tells us to render service to “strangers” (See Leviticus 19:10, 23:22, Exodus 22:21; Leviticus 19:33-34) and Jesus assumed that these rules still applied when he said “I was a stranger and you invited me in” (Matthew 25:35, 43). We are even to show mercy to our enemies because God does (Matthew 5:45). Jonathan Edwards, writing about the need to care for the poor, wrote this: “We are particularly required to be kind to the unthankful and to the evil; and therein to follow the example of our heavenly Father, who causes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. We are obliged, not only to be kind to them that are so to us, but to them that hate and despitefully use us.”

The Lord Jesus himself was described as mighty in “word and deed” and Peter told Cornelius that Jesus went around “doing good”. He preached to and showed practical mercy to all kinds of people, from all kinds of backgrounds. What’s the point of sharing all these things with you? Simply this: I believe that we must reach our community both practically and spiritually – with good deeds and the word of God. To be characterised by love for one another is good. But our love for Christ must be expressed in ministering mercy to those who don’t yet know the Lord. My prayer for our church is that we would be a people who “act justly and love mercy” as we walk  together with the Lord. I hope that our outreach plans for the future will reflect this crucial principle.

Wes Johnston

Top Photo: Flickr – Mike Walker

Text Photo: Flickr – TheRealDonTodd