Back in the World Relief and Human Care days we had mottos – “Work, Fight and Pray” was one. “Divine Mercy, Human Care” was another. “Hey man we got to go help” was coined by Carlos Hernandez. Restructuring changed the brands which is too bad. We need to regain our voice for mercy. Here was my recollection of getting a package in the mail back when we were called “mercy cowboys”.
A package came for me in the mail the other day. Inside was a work shirt with the words” fight, work, pray’ embroidered on it. The words come from Luther “On the Blessed Sacrament of the Holy and True Body of Christ” 1519. (L.W. 35.54) “There your heart must go out in love and devotion and learn that this sacrament is a sacrament of love, and that love and service are given you and you again must render love and service to Christ and His needy ones. You must feel with sorrow all the dishonor done to Christ in His holy Word, all the misery of Christendom, all the unjust suffering of the innocent, with which the world is everywhere filled to overflowing: You must fight, work, pray and, if you cannot do more, have heartfelt sympathy.” The words have become the unofficial motto of the Board for Human Care of the LCMS. Luther explains in this treatise that God gives himself to me in the Sacrament of the Altar so that I can give myself to my neighbor. In Baptism, God’s merciful washing produces merciful living. In Confession and Absolution God’s merciful words of forgiveness to me produce merciful words and actions for my neighbor. Christ give himself to me fully and completely that I may give myself to others. In John 3:16 we see he Trinity in action in mercy –God loving the world, His Son being sent into the world, and the Holy Spirit calling gathering and enlightening so that all who believe in Him will be saved.
The implications of the Trinitarian mercy towards the children of men should be an impetus for the mercy that we show to one another. The ethical exhortations of the New Testament have their root in the mercy of God. Although the calls to be merciful are grounded in the Law they find their expression through the Gospel and the Gospel gifts to us. The way we handle conflict, the way we deal with the poor, the way we handle the stuff of this world come not from our desire that other’s believe, but because of what we believe. Acts of mercy may be opportunities for pre-evangelism, but primarily they function as our response to what we are in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We want all men to come to the knowledge of the truth because that is what our God wants, but we will act in mercy and do good works because that is what we are in Christ.