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When Mercy Becomes Mission

Updated: Dec 28, 2020

When the church recalls its purpose and proclamation, it will regain its relevance.

People are hurting. That’s my analysis, and I’m sticking with it. All around us I see broken people who are in pain. They are a herd of duct taped Humpty Dumptys, sleep walking through life with no clear sense of meaning or purpose. COVID-19 has only compounded this pessimism as a result of the ravaging deaths, social disruption, and economic uncertainty it has precipitated.

Redeemed People with a Renewed Purpose

It is into this social milieu that the church of Jesus Christ finds itself existing in the same context as unbelievers but not operating from the same posture. Unbelievers are stumbling along as a result of the mayhem, hopelessly trapped in the abyss of being strangers and sinners. But we have a different vantage point. We are distinct in our community and calling, which directs our attention away from the ephemeral symptoms of the present pandemic onto the eternal sovereignty of the perpetual Potentate. This distinction is rooted in our identity.

The Apostle Peter speaks to the heart of what I am teasing at in his first epistle to the Christ-followers who were to consider themselves “temporary residents” (1:1) in this Satan-influenced society:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [God’s] possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (2:9-10 HCSB).

Peter’s point, and mine, is that we are a redeemed people with a purpose. We are so that we may. And we were not, but now we are. And we had not, but now we have. What profound statements of being! At the heart of Peter’s passionate affirmation is the recognition that we are because we have; i.e., we are kingly priests because we have the King’s pity.

It just so happens that Christ-followers are not a herd of Humpty Dumptys, after all. Rather, we are kingly priests and God’s mercy receiving people. If that doesn’t light a fire in our bellies, then nothing will. Sandwiched between everything we are emerges a missional purpose that beckons us to awaken out of our sleep. It is a purpose statement, an existential reality, a clarity of meaning: We are proclaimers of God’s manifest power.[1]

Kingdom People with a Kingdom Proclamation

The purpose of our proclamation is grounded in our identity as kingly priests and springs from our being beneficiaries of God’s mercy. Our purpose is communal and corporate as expressed through the plural form of the pronoun “you” and the descriptors “race,” “priesthood,” “nation,” and “people.”

God has so radically changed our individual lives through His magnificent power that, together, we now form a royal community of witnesses to the world about the new identity and new family we have inherited. We are God’s kingdom people continuing the irruption of God’s kingdom, which began with the incarnation of the Son of God, into the earth by carrying out His kingdom agenda. Leslie Newbigin referred to it as a “sign, instrument, and foretaste of the reign of God.”[2]

Therefore, a kingdom mindset is not a pessimistic life with no sense of purpose, but a missional expression that details and demonstrates the reality of the risen Christ in a world searching to belong to a race, priesthood, nation, and people who live in the light of God’s mercy.

Now that we live in the light of God’s marvelous existence, we are to be extensions of His light in this dark world. As a community we are to shine bright so that those who are living in the darkness of nihilism and condemnation can experience God’s compassion and be welcomed into His redeemed and enlightened family.

So maybe, in a sense, we are the King’s men and women. When we proclaim God’s magnificent power, we project His light and reveal His kingdom. And when unbelievers respond to our proclamation by trusting in the lordship of Christ, we participate in God’s mission in the world to put Humpty Dumptys back together again – i.e., the reconciliation and restoration of all things in Christ.

Rev. Isaac Hayes is the president of Healing of the Soul Ministries. He is also an Assistant Pastor at the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago, IL, and a doctoral student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL. Follow Rev. Hayes on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @RevIsaacHayes.

[1] BDAG, 130.

[2] Lesslie Newbigin, The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission (Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995), 110.

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