Biblical Justice and Mercy and Gospel Proclamation

By Kenneth Berding Feb. 9, 2012 3:33 p.m. Church Life, Culture, Evangelism, Ministry and Leadership, Missions

Over the past five months the Overseers (translate:  “Elders” or “Pastors”) at Whittier Hills Baptist Church have been thinking and praying about ministries of compassion and justice and the relationship of such activities to gospel proclamation.  We have recently completed a position paper in which we collectively lay out what we believe the Bible teaches on this topic.  We also address a few practical issues in the paper.  We will be using this document in the future to help guide ministry decisions as we interact with those who are poor, oppressed, and marginalized.  I’m linking you to our paper with the permission and encouragement of our leadership team.  We hope that this paper will be a help to other churches, ministries, and individuals to think carefully and biblically through this important--and sometime controversial--topic.  You are free to use this paper (or sections of it) in any way you consider appropriate in your respective areas of ministry.   

To read the paper, CLICK >> HERE

Please note that most of the first four or so pages are simply Scripture references.  The paper as a whole is organized as follows:

Definitions:

Biblical Issues:

  1. What is the biblical basis for justice and mercy?
  2. What is the mission of the church?
  3. Is there any priority of verbally proclaiming the gospel message over being involved in deeds of justice and mercy?
  4. How much of a difference can we expect to make?  What is the extent of the breaking in of the kingdom of God in the present?
  5. Are there levels of responsibility?  Do we have greater responsibility for some than for others?

Wisdom Issues:

  1. Is there some sort of prioritizing of compassion over addressing systemic injustices?
  2. Does advocacy on behalf of the downtrodden and oppressed take precedence over supporting policies that protect our freedoms?
  3. Should the church directly take on ministries of justice and mercy?
  4. Should churches or individual believers respond to every instance where there is a clear example of suffering or injustice?

Summary of Ministry Vision and Values at Whittier Hills Baptist Church:

Comments

  • Ben Cunningham Feb. 24, 2012 at 4:29 PM

    I wanted to thank Ken Berding and the overseers at WHBC for their work on that theological position paper. Our small church in northern California is currently working on a similar paper and it was a very helpful jumping off point. I know that posting things like this can feel like a waste of time when there is no response, so know that it was valuable. Grateful,

    Ben Cunningham
    Calvary Community Church
    Rohnert Park, CA

  • Ken Berding Feb. 26, 2012 at 5:06 PM

    Ben, thanks so much for your follow-up note. It was precisely to try to ease the process for other leadership groups thinking about the same issue that we decided to post this paper. Thank you for letting us know that it was helpful. Blessings on the continuing ministry at Calvary Community Church!

  • Alemu Mammo Jan. 31, 2013 at 11:42 AM

    Justice is what we deserve legally and God executes it because He is absolutely just God. But, the challenge is, He is equally merciful God, where He is obliged by His nature to give us what we do not deserve or earn, against His own justice, paying us back what we deserve, His justice.
    So, is He first Just and then Merciful or He is first merciful and then, Just?
    Unchanging God continues to change His mind against unstable and rebellious men. God changed His mind against Nineveh and on numerous occasions, concerning His people. Being a Father of unstable, rebellious and sinful humanity, means ,God is able to manage justice and mercy with His Divine balance and Divine sovereignty. I may not understand how He keeps this delicate balance but I enjoy it daily. But, I say this, without God's mercy humanity would have been wiped out from this universe and without His mercy, the NT era would have been impractical.

  • Ken Berding Jan. 31, 2013 at 5:16 PM

    Alemu, thanks so much for your comment. The problem of reconciling justice and mercy is one of the greatest philosophical problems of all time. If you have absolute justice/fairness, there is no place for mercy (or justice isn't absolute). If you always show mercy, then justice is denied.

    This is why the cross of Christ was so incredibly important! It is only at the crucifixion where God's absolute requirement for justice could be satisfied at the same time when mercy was extended. There really isn't much point talking about justice and mercy (at its most fundamental level, which is the level you are talking about) without the cross. I know no other way to resolved this apart from the death of Christ.

    I hope this was helpful!

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