As Christians, our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20-21). We long for the day when Jesus comes back and ushers in the fulness of His kingdom, which is our eternal home. In His kingdom, there will be no suffering, decay, sorrow, or death (Rev 21:4). No wonder the scripture refers to Christ’s return as our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13).
Yet for now, we also live as citizens in the “common” kingdom of the world. This is a world that is broken by the effects of sin. There are needs all around us that we, as God’s people, are burdened with. What are we to do about those needs? What is our role in bringing wholeness to the world around us? Is Christianity about individual salvation and having a “personal” faith, or is it about doing good in the world we live in and addressing the needs we see around us?
Motivated to Love, Motivated by Love
When impacted by God’s grace through the gospel, we are freed from having to live in a world that is self-oriented – consumed with our own pursuits, our own concerns, our own “needs”. Instead, God begins to open our eyes to the needs of those around us, and moves us to extend His grace freely to others in the form of compassion, generosity, mercy, and by simply doing what is right (or what many are calling “social justice”).
The motivation that compels us outward toward those in need is LOVE. As those who have been lavishly loved by Jesus, we are both commanded AND wired to love others (John 13:34-35, 1 John 4:7-21). Love is so important that Romans 13 indicates it is the perfect summary of the entire law. In other words, all of the negative commandments (do not murder, do not steal, etc) would not be necessary if everyone would simply love their neighbor (Rom 13:8-10). Who is my neighbor? Jesus answered this question in the story of the “good Samaritan” by implying that our neighbor is anyone in need that our path comes across. This means people both inside and outside of the family of God. When we see needs around us, we are moved as those who have been richly loved by Jesus, to extend that love to others. It is who we are in Christ, and therefore what we do.
The mission of the local church is to proclaim the gospel and make disciples. As an entity, the church (including its structures and its leadership) exists to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. This means that the actual “ministry” done in this world will primarily be done through individual Christians rather than through formal ministries of a local church.
In other words, there is a difference between what God has commissioned the church to do in making disciples, and what God calls individual Christians to do under the command to “love your neighbor as yourself”. This is important because many Christians are looking to their church to do ministry for them that God has called them to do. And at the same time, churches can get caught up in a flurry of ministries and programs while neglecting the main thing it is called to do.
We believe that Christians are called, by the nature of the gospel, to share God’s heart for the needs that are so prevalent in the world around us, and that sharing God’s heart means actively moving to meet those needs in the name of Christ. We also believe that it is the church’s responsibility, as part of truly making disciples, to stir up the affections and hearts of our people so that an atmosphere of compassion and genuine ministry is taking place through the saints. As a result, we will shepherd and call people to the following:
- A Generous Heart for Others: We are reminded throughout scripture that our resources are really not our own. They are God’s, and He has simply called us to be good stewards of them on His behalf. In the OT, landowners were required to leave part of their crops unharvested (the corners). This would allow those in need (the widow, the poor, the foreigner) to come into their property and glean for themselves in order to have provision. This wasn’t a handout on the part of the landowner to the poor. Rather, it was a way for God to train them that they aren’t to squeeze every ounce of profit from their land for their own gain. But they were to have a heart of generosity that made room with what they had to address the needs that will always be around.
- A Good-Samaritan lifestyle: When the “Good-Samaritan” took care of the wounded and robbed man, he was willing to cross social and racial barriers to help a person in need, and he was willing to be inconvenienced at great personal expense, both to his time and to his pocketbook. This kind of living, where we put the needs of others above ourselves in humility, and where we are willing to let the Spirit of God lead us, is a natural outflowing of the new birth we have experienced in Christ.
- A Gospel-Focus: There are many great things being done in the world to address injustice, oppression, and suffering. However, the greatest need a person has is to be reconciled to their maker through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Meeting needs and sharing the gospel are not in opposition to one-another, but without a gospel priority, a person longing to “do right” can find themselves doing many good things without ever sharing the hope of the gospel. As people go about engaging the needs around them, whether through “Christian” organizations or with secular agencies, they are ambassadors for Christ in all that they do, and the good news of the gospel is their greatest gift to share.
- An Avoidance of Legalism: When people pursue their passions and use their gifts, they want those around them to share in those same passions. With so many wonderful opportunities to get “involved” in the world, it would be easy to feel under a burden of legalism, as though each person needed to be as passionate or committed as the next person within any given cause. In this case, every “opportunity” is treated as a “responsibility” and will only lead to dutiful involvement by people trying to check the box of “doing good” deeds. Rather, by God’s wondrous grace, each of us are uniquely gifted, and will have unique passions that we will feel led to pursue for the glory of Christ.
Listen to the sermon below on what God’s Word says about Loving Your Neighbor.
Compassion Ministry Partners
MVCC has, support and partners with several ministries and organizations to help love our neighbors.