*This is Part 1 of 7: A Basic Theology of Mercy Work*

“Mercy Work,” as it will be defined herein (Christian care for those in need – in body, mind, or spirit), flows directly from God’s mercy to us. The frequent apostolic blessing of “grace, mercy, and peace” should remind us of the importance of the term. Mercy from us to others is always grounded in the mercy we have received. Mercy is an undeserved love and blessing that shows itself in love from God to humanity and in a Christian’s love toward neighbor (Eph. 2:10). The focus of mercy work is the Christian’s compassion for the whole person, body, and soul. Thus, the Lutheran congregation’s mercy work:

  1. Cares for all people in their temporal needs throughout the world (1st article of the Creed).
  2. Cares for the spiritual redemption of all people (2nd article of the Creed).
  3. Cares for the soul and spiritual needs of all people (3rd article of the Creed).
  4. Works primarily through Christians in their vocations and through the corporate service of Christian congregations toward the needy.
  5. Flows from the congregation to help temporal needs; the community is invited into the church to meet their spiritual needs.
  6. Is based on a subscription to Holy Scripture and Luther’s Small Catechism.[1]


       Three key Bible texts that inform Lutheran mercy work include: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” (Matt. 22:39); “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10); and, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but indeed and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18).

This is part one of a series. To learn more about the theology for mercy. Contact the Church Information Center (infocenter@lcms.org) to get a free packet of mercy resources from LCMS Disaster Response. 

[1] See Matthew C. Harrison, “What Does It Mean to be a Lutheran in Social Ministry,” in Mercy in Action: Essays on Mercy, Human Care and Disaster Response, edited by Ross Edward Johnson (St. Louis: The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, 2015), 413.