Mercy and the Lutheran Congregation – a review

The Lord be with you

I grew-up during a time when “liberal” churches were dominated by the “social gospel” and “conservative” churches reacted against the reductionism of the “social gospel.” This “social gospel” seemed to subordinate sound teaching to acts of mercy to the point where teaching was forgotten and replaced with action. This led to the perception, on the part of many, that conservative churches were so gun-shy of being seen as “liberal” that they eschewed acts of mercy. It seemed too many that “conservative” churches had forgotten James’ warning, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (James 2:14).

Sleeping bags made by members of Our Redeemer for the homeless

Coming from a “conservative” denomination, I can say that this perception of “conservative” churches is a distortion, at best. My childhood church not only preached truth on Sunday, not only encouraged us to live our faith, but also offered opportunities for acts of mercy. For example, there was a food/clothing/furniture bank for the poor that we supported with volunteers and donations. There was also a mission in Tijuana, Mexico, that we supported, again with volunteers and donations. There certainly were other ways we showed the love of God in Christ Jesus to our neighbors. I like to think my church was the norm, not the exception, when it comes to “conservative” churches. What we didn’t do was engage in political maneuvering, which some, but not all, “conservative” churches do.

There is nothing new about “conservative” churches reaching out in acts of mercy to their neighbors. In a recently translated booklet, written by Rev. Theodore Julius Brohm, one of the founding pastors of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (in fact he served three terms as our vice president), he encouraged this new “conservative” Lutheran denomination to be engaged in corporate acts of mercy. He begins by writing, “Intentional care of the poor and the sick is essential for the well-being of a Christian congregation.”

Brohm shows from the Scriptures and history that being a faithful Christian is not limited to correct doctrine but includes acts of mercy. These acts certainly flow from the loving heart of the individual Christian but are not limited to the individual acts of Christians. Christians, gathered together in local congregations and (in the case of the LC-MS) in larger groupings such as Districts and Synod, also engage in acts of mercy. True Christianity manifests itself in works of faith, of compassion, of mercy.

Brohm’s booklet is only eleven pages long and well worth reading. The link below will take you to it.

Blessings in Christ,