Christians have the heart of Christ and thus have (super)natural compassion. We want to be a part of showing mercy in areas where people are suffering oppression. Some areas include:
*Wives of abusive husbands
*Religious oppressive practices (like Sati, the Hindu practice of burning wives on the funeral pyres of their husbands)
*Children forced into marriage
*Drug and alcohol addictions
Mercy or justice ministries focus on the physical relief of these pains. God has used mercy ministries and we should be involved in them. However, our ministry here in North Africa is largely proclamation (of the Gospel) ministry and does not directly aim at these social needs.
This raises a few hard questions for me and you, our supporters. Are we neglecting showing mercy? Are we really just cultural imperialists who don’t love people and help them at their point of felt need? Should you redirect your giving toward a ministry that SHOWS the love of Christ? Should we redirect the efforts of our time and money to directly focus on these social injustices?
I hope to show you from our experience here and the Word that God has designed proclamation ministry to result in a kind of mercy ministry that is more indigenous and eternal in its impact.
Our proclamation ministry has led to a mercy ministry just this week in the following way:
*Religious oppressive practices. My friend Sayid attended his nephew’s son’s funeral last Sunday. The boy was 13 years old. He died because his dad took him to the Islamic doctor (also called a Faqih) for healing when he got a fever last week. These traditional doctors are believed in by the people because their prophet Mohammed believed in them. They write a Koranic verse on a piece of paper and soak it in water mixed with ashes. The sick are then supposed to drink this water for magic healing. They take the same paper and burn it under the body of the sick letting the smoke rise up and magically heal. The boy followed these remedies and by the time he arrived to a real hospital he was already dead.
The Muslim at this point cannot blame the faqih without abandoning his whole belief system. Instead the family is comforted by repeating the word “maktoob” (it is written). This means that Allah had written this fateful event to happen from the beginning of time and there is no fault of man. The next generation will thus continue to live in the same darkness…except Pastor Sayid and his children.
*Child marriage- Farah’s 90 year old grandmother is dying very soon. The whole family is gathering. This old lady has been married since she was 9 years old. The marriage was consummated when she was 11. She has lived her whole life in Islam and just met a Christian for the first time when her granddaughter, Farah, believed on Christ two years ago.
*Religious Persecution. I spent 30 minutes in conversation with an educated man yesterday. He had studied all of the Islamic arguments against Christianity. “Islam is a laser”, he explained to me. “All Muslims in a community have to be focused in the same direction toward Islam or the laser has lost its power. For this reason we cannot allow the same freedom of thought, expression, and religion that you do in America. Islam has no power if it is not united.”
“So, then,” I asked in response, “do you agree with the command in Islam that a mortad (person who was born a Muslim but has left Islam) should be killed?” He stammered a bit trying to think of how to lesson the blow but bluntly admitted, “I cannot be a Muslim and deny that all murtadeen should be killed.” This man has a darkened conscience and is without hope without a miracle from God to save him.
This very week Farah was accepted into a master’s degree course called “Constitutional Law and Human Rights”. When she finishes she will be the first Christian lawyer in this country. On top of that God has seen fit to make her a human right’s lawyer with a bonafide knowledge of this countries constitution! She heard the Gospel from us for the first time 3 years ago when she believed.
*Hunger and Abusive Spouses. My wife has been witnessing to Suad, our occasional housekeeper, with great responsiveness. She reads the Bible at her own home and is trying to put love and giving into practice before she has even believed. She told my wife this week that her husband is drunk all time and she has threatened to leave him with their diabetic son. He doesn’t work or care for his family. We delivered groceries and medicine for her family and extended family.
*Sex trade and drug addictions. Last night I studied lesson one of the discipleship material with Isam who had previously been addicted to huffing glue. During the lesson he admitted to me that fornication would be the hardest sin for him to break free from. He has been regularly paying $2 for a prostitute since he was 16 years old. He is the second believer to admit to me that beastiality is a very common part of the experience of young men in the Muslim world.
Young Muslim men grow up with the fulfillment of the sexual desires being ultimate and inevitable. They believe that God has made them with the desire that they must fulfill whether they find an animal or pay pennies. If a man’s wife doesn’t oblige he should hit her until she does. If she cannot oblige or does not fully satisfy him he may marry up to four women (a small number compared to their prophet).
He is only one out of a number of other believing men here that have left the practice of enslaving women for their bodies. There is one less abuser of women on the streets. Instead he desires to marry a Christian woman and love her alone.
Indigenous and Eternal
It is indigenous when Christ changes the heart of someone here. Mercy is being shown through these native believers to their families and communities.
It is eternal when the Gospel penetrates the heart. We could provide relief for a short period of time by showing mercy but we can provide relief for a lifetime and for eternity by preaching the Gospel. The drunk will drink no more. The abuser will abuse no more. The murderer will kill no more. The slave to sin will be released. The lost will be found.
I think, however, about the other 40 million in this country or the 1 billion in the Muslim world who have no believing family members or Gospel preacher. There are still so many without a prophet.
Theologically Rooted in the Word
Consider why Christ came:
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; Because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek; He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. –Isaiah 61:1-3
Preaching in this passage is mentioned with the following words: preach, bind up, proclaim, and comfort. By preaching I don’t only mean that act of heralding the Word from a pulpit though I do mean at least that. Preaching is much more than that. It is boldly informing uninformed people about the most important information: Jesus the Light of the World has come to free them.
My wife did that this week when she sat at our kitchen table with Suad and opened her mouth and the Bible to tell her about Christ.
Sayid did that when he spoke about Christ to his family at the funeral.
Fatima did that when she told her mom just last week for the first time that she has believed the injeel (Gospel).
I was doing that when I sat with my friend at a cafe and showed him what it means to walk holy for God is holy.
You did it this week if you shared the message of the Gospel of Christ in any way with someone who has not believed on Him.
This is why it is so important to send missionaries. This is why it is so important to train pastors and Sunday School teachers. This is why it is so important that we support more and more evangelistic efforts like the Radio Nour el Maghreb that has reached over 110k people with the news of Christ since last year. This is why it is so important to disciple new believers to shine in the darkness of their lost families and friends.
Preaching equals mercy equals the Glory of God.
Preaching the Gospel is merciful. The result is the glory of God in a darkened world.
I have a friend who says if he had a billion dollars to give to missions he would give it all to church planting. I agree.