Presented by the Commission on Christian Action, adopted by the delegates to the 114th Covenant Annual Meeting.
The Biblical Basis for Our Call
Our Lord Jesus Christ calls us, his followers, to feed the hungry and thirsty, to welcome the stranger, to clothe the naked and to visit the sick and those in prison. He says, “As you did this to one of the least of these, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:31-46).
This call is rooted in the Old Testament and its concern for justice and mercy declared in Micah 6:8, “He has showed you…what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” We also see deep concern for compassion to one’s neighbor in Leviticus 19:18b, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus highlighted this passage as he defined “neighbor” in its broadest application to include all people. The call of our Lord on every believer is to live lives marked by compassion, mercy, and justice. At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus stated that his mission was the fulfillment of the promise in Isaiah 61:1-2, that the Messiah would preach good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners. The subsequent life, deeds, teaching and sacrificial death of our risen Lord demonstrate that his heart was a heart of mercy. He has left us an example that we should follow in his steps.
The apostles teach that “we are created in Christ Jesus for good works that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). “Faith by itself if it has no works is dead” (James 2:17). “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help?” (1 John 3:17).
From its beginning, the Evangelical Covenant Church has emphasized ministries of mercy and compassion. Several present Covenant ministries (children’s homes, retirement communities, and hospitals) arose from the original Home of Mercy, established at the inception of the Covenant Church more than a century ago.
We have received immense and undeserved mercy through salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ. In accepting his salvation and acknowledging him as Lord we are bound in praise and thanksgiving to respond in obedience to his call for deeds of mercy. God’s love and the Holy Spirit gives Christ’s followers hearts of love for those Christ came to save.
We call every Covenanter to volunteer—according to abilities, gifts, and situation—in ministries of mercy both at home and abroad. Let us feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick and those in prison, and do other acts of compassion in Jesus’ name.
We further call every Covenant congregation to create and support wise and effective ministries of mercy. We teach and train each other to be involved in worship, Bible study, and prayer. Likewise, we must teach and train each other to engage in compassionate ministry. Let us look at needs in our communities with new vision and willingness to move beyond existing ministries and comfort zones.
As followers of Christ, it is our responsibility to support ministries of mercy by hands-on involvement, financial gifts, and intercessory prayer.
Through individual involvement: When we become personally involved in ministries of mercy (whether directly or through prayer or financial assistance) we acknowledge by our deeds the lordship of Jesus Christ over our lives. We minister on his behalf as if we were ministering unto him. Personal involvement expresses and encourages a heart of thanksgiving, an attitude of stewardship toward all that we possess, and an orientation towards others.
For example, one might tithe time to a compassionate ministry, either on a regular basis or by a one or two year commitment. Or one might use vacation time for a mission trip or urban ministry. There are rich opportunities in Hands Extended Lifting People (HELP), Covenant World Relief, and Covenant Mission Connection.
Through community involvement: Congregations which deploy volunteers to serve community needs in addition to internal church programs will increase our awareness of neighbors, opportunities to share the gospel, and the visibility of our gospel witness.
Through our mission covenant: Our churches covenant with the other congregations of the Evangelical Covenant Church to work and pray together for missions of mercy, compassion, and justice to gain the effectiveness of united effort. We also should seek selective opportunities to work with other Christian groups to build local community efforts and effective mission partnership.
In Jesus name: We should seek to make apparent that we minister in honor of Jesus by disclosing our Christian identity when we serve. We should unite the word of God’s grace with deeds of grace, seeking in our service to mercifully bring others to Christ.