July 16, 2006
Mercy Ships, from a secular world view perspective, is a wonderful organization bringing physical and emotional relief and healing to those in poverty all over the world. However, from a Christian perspective, let's take a look at the mission, vision and values of Mercy Ships and compare it to the Bible.
Mission: Following the example of Jesus, Mercy Ships brings hope and healing to the poor, mobilizing people and resources worldwide.
Let's look at the example of Jesus. What examples of bringing hope and healing did He provide in the Bible? The New Testament records His first words when He began His public ministry. The focus was not on the physical sickened condition but the spiritual sickened condition.
Matthew 4:17: From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say 'Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand'”.
Mark 1:14,15: Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel”.
Luke 4:17-19: “And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of our Lord'”.
Jesus is not talking about physical ailments here, He is talking about the spiritual condition. If you study the beatitudes (Luke 6:20-26) you will also find Jesus is not talking about physical conditions but spiritual.
Throughout the New Testament, Jesus did physically heal those people he wished to heal as a sign to show who he was and that they should believe on him and bring glory to God. He had purpose for that time in those physical healings. In fact, there were times when He could have healed some physically but didn't (see John 5, where He healed just the one man). But the true hope and healing Jesus brought was the gospel, which is basically to repent, believe and be saved from God's eternal wrath. We are all born spiritually depraved as a result of Adam's fall and are in need of spiritual life.
Luke 13:3 and 5: “Nay, but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish”
Luke 24:46-47: “.....And said unto them, 'Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem'”.
If one compares Jesus' example of hope and healing with Mercy Ships' example of hope and healing, will they come to the conclusion that they are the same? Is Mercy Ships following Jesus' example by actively preaching this same gospel that Jesus preached in these verses?
This leads us to Mercy Ships' vision.
Vision: Mercy Ships seeks to become the face of love in action, bringing hope and healing to the poor.
What is the definition of God's love? The Greek word “Agape” means benevolent love. Its benevolence, however, is not shown by doing what the person loved desires but what the one who loves deems as needed by the one loved. (In other words, doing what is best and needed even if its not fun or desired by the person we love).
How did God show His love? By sending His only Son to preach the gospel to and die for His chosen ones, yet enemies of Him, so that they would have eternal life and not spend eternity in hell. How is Mercy Ships showing this kind of love in action? Is it preaching the true gospel which people need to hear? (Agape love) People need to be told they are dead in sin, woefully wicked and hating God from birth and need to repent. Why is there no mention of anything like this in Mercy Ships' mission, vision or values? It appears Mercy Ships' gospel is a very ecumenical and social gospel: ministering to the physical needs of the poor is their gospel. If love is the only attribute people are being shown by Mercy Ships, what happens when someone runs into future rebuke, teaching, correction or punishment by God as a means of His agape love and grace? Will they turn away from the God to whom they were introduced, not understanding why this might be happening to them? Could their existing physical ailment be a means by which God wishes to keep them humbled so that they will realize their need of Him? And do the local churches with which Mercy Ships partners and trains teach this gospel after Mercy Ships has left the area?
As Christians, who are we directed most to love? What example did the apostles and early church provide for us to follow? To whom are all of the letters from the apostles addressed? Are they speaking to anyone but believers? The poor are mentioned generally in the old and new testaments; however, the church was mainly directed to care for each other, not the world. In fact, the church is told to keep separate from the world and its ungodliness. Let's look at some verses:
Acts 2:42-47: And they (the new Christians) continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things in common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men (Christians) , as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness, and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”
The early church example was to stick together and take care of each other, not the world and its unbelievers. Then how do we evangelize? By living as Christians in obedience to God's word. Our life is our witness. God will bring to Himself those whom He wants to save and be brought into the church community. This is not to say there are not some who are called to be teachers, evangelists, etc.; however, their first obligation is to live lives obedient to God and preach the true and whole gospel. God in His sovereignty will take care of the rest. (If you are interested in further information about this doctrinally, please see the attached verse sets document.)
Values: Desiring to follow the example of Jesus, we seek to:
1. Love God
How did Jesus show that He loved God? He did what God sent Him to do. He preached truth, even though it was harsh and people hated him for it. Only those who were foreordained to accept the truth received it and were saved. All others hated Jesus for it. And He laid down His life for those He came to save. How does Mercy Ships show its love in this manner? So how do we love God? Jesus said in John 14:15: “If you love me you will keep my commandments”. We will discuss this in more detail later in the document.
2. Love and Serve Others
Jesus showed his agape love for others by telling them that they needed to repent and be saved. The physical healing was a sign of his powers, not his main mission. Absolutely, we are to serve others; however, it should be within the parameters of what God has commanded. It doesn't matter what we think is a good thing to do. The only thing that matters is to be obedient to God and His word. God will handle the rest.
3. Be people of integrity
What exactly does this mean? That is an admired quality in both Christian and non-Christian organizations. How does this differentiate between the two to identify Mercy Ships as a truly Christian organization?
4. Be people of excellence in all we say and do
Same statement as number 3 above.
“Mercy Ships follows the 2000 year old model of Jesus: the blind see, the lame walk, the mute speak and Good News (the nature and character of a loving God) is proclaimed and demonstrated among the poor.
God is absolutely a loving God; however, why is love the only “nature and character” of God that Mercy Ships proclaims? God has many other characteristics. Are God's wrath, justice and judgment characteristics discussed as well? Are all of God's attributes being presented or just the attributes that make people feel good and tell them they're okay?
The statement above from the Mercy Ships website is taken from Luke 7:22: “Then Jesus answering said unto them, 'Go your way, and tell John (the Baptist) what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached'”.
First, if Jesus' main mission was to meet the physical needs of everyone, he would have healed all the sick everywhere; given every poor person on the planet a bunch of money; fed everybody; and set everyone free of bondage, including the Jews from Rome. If that is the case, He failed miserably. But secondly, these things He did to show who He was. It is not evident these things can be taken as things we are supposed to do, given these were miracles of His.
Still though, if Mercy Ships was actually following the model of Jesus here, as it claims by using this scripture, it would do all the things mentioned in Luke 7:22, including preaching the gospel of repentance (and raising the dead!!).
Joining with the World
2 Cor. 6:14-16: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
You might immediately dismiss the preceding verse as only referencing man/woman relationships, which is what we were taught growing up. However, let's look at the context. Is it talking only about man/woman relationships? No, it is talking about how Christians should relate and interact with the world and non-believers.
The term “unequally yoked” is an agrarian term referencing Deuteronomy 22:10: “Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together”. The term “unequally yoked” is from the Greek word “Heterozugeo” meaning to come under an unequal or different yolk. In other words, to have fellowship with one who is not an equal. This verse is not talking about generally interacting in civil society and conversation with unbelievers, but joining with them in terms of idolatry, worship and partnership. This includes those who profess to know God but do not follow the doctrine that was given by Jesus and the disciples. If we are commanded to be pure and holy, and we partner with the world (yoke ourselves with them), do they become pure or do we become dirty or unpure? If you put a pure white shirt out into the mud, does the mud become white or does the shirt become dirty?
Haggai 2:11-14: “Thus saith the Lord of hosts; ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No. Then said Haggai, if one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, it shall be unclean. Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the Lord; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean”.
God also commands His people to be holy and live holy lives. 1 Peter 1:16: “Because it is written, 'Be ye holy; for I am holy'”. The word “holy” means separate or apart. We are commanded to be holy, to separate from ungodliness and improper doctrine, unto God, to proper doctrine, to fellowship with like-minded believers, and unto obedience to Him.
Hebrews 7:26: “For such a high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens”, which was Jesus, who commanded: 2 Cor. 6:17: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you”.
One of Mercy Ships' values is to “Love God.” How do we love God?
John 14:15: “If ye love me, keep my commandments”
John 14:21: “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him”.
John 15:10: “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love”.
1 Cor. 7:19: Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.”
1 John 2:3-4: “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
1 John 3:24: “And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us”.
1 John 5:2-3: “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous”.
2 John 1:6: “And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it”.
Rev 14:12: “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus”.
Rev 22:14: “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city”.
Another Mercy Ships value is to “Love and Serve Others.” What did God command regarding this?
John 15:17: “These things I command you, that ye love one another.” This is referring to loving the brethren of the church, which is the people of God – those who are saved, as evidenced by the following verses:
1 John 2:10: “He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.
1 John 3:11: “For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another [believers, to whom He's talking in these verses].” (square brackets added)
1 John 3:14: “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.”
1 John 3:23: “And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.”
1 John 4:7: “Ye are of God [believers], little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” (square brackets added)
1 John 4:10-11: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another [those who have had God's wrath removed (propitiated), i.e. believers].” (square brackets added)
1 John 4:21: “And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.”
And here is more context of who our brothers are: 1 John 5:1-2: Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.”
These statements to separate from the world and love the brethren are commands of God to obey, thereby evidencing our love for Him. Does Mercy Ships evidence this?
The Mercy Ships website lists a myriad of endorsements by world leaders and corporate sponsors that in no way believe in the true gospel of Jesus Christ. This appears to be an example of being unequally yoked with unbelievers. This goes against what God has commanded in the Bible. Regardless of how much “good” has been and is being done, we are first to obey God's commands to show we love Him.
Also, Mercy Ships is a 501C3 organization which places itself and partners (unequally yokes itself) under the authority of ungodly governments and world entities, including the United Nations, a blatantly pagan organization. Churches and non-profit organizations around the world have heavily diluted the gospel message and what is being said from pulpits and speaking podiums for fear of having their grants and funding removed if they say the wrong thing, as well as fearing they will lose supporters and their money. This is another example of being unequally yolked with unbelievers and disobeying God's commands. Why place oneself under the authority of an ungodly entity when God has shown us by the example of the early church how we are to care for each other?
1 John 2:15: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
James 4:4: Ye adulterers and adultresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
Finally, we as Christians are promised that if we live true Christian lives and preach the true gospel, that the world will hate us. According to its website, Mercy Ships exhibits a long list of high praise from leaders and non-believers around the world. This appears to be contrary to what the Bible says we can expect if we are preaching the true gospel.
Luke 6:26: “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! For so did their fathers to the false prophets.
Luke 6:22: “Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake”.
Matthew 5:11: “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Luke 14:26: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” The word “hate” means to love less, i.e. you must put your love of God before the love of your family or yourself.
John 15:18-19: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you”.
1 John 3:13: “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you”.
John 15:20: “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.”
Psalm 1:1-6: Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, or sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish”.
One might say, “The message is so harsh and negative and people do not want to hear it. Doctrine divides and is not that important to communicate. Look at all the good we're doing. We would never be able to do it without partnering with all these people and organizations of different faiths and beliefs. Besides, it brings us all together in harmony”. First, if God with all of His attributes, along with the gospel message of man's complete depravity and Christ's atoning work and God's grace and mercy outside of man's will, is not preached, then this message is not doctrinally sound and is untruthful. Secondly, only God is good (Matthew 19:17; Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19); and further, God is truth (John 14:16-17). Now, if the truth is not being preached (i.e. bad doctrine), then the works involved with that preaching cannot be of God (because God is truth), and therefore they cannot be good (because God is good). Christians are created for good works, but they are only good works if God is in them.
Truth in doctrine is important, and it separates by nature. Please note the following verses that make it evident in the Bible that doctrine is crucial, what our actions are to be toward improper doctrine, and that Christ's message causes separation:
Romans 16:17: “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them”.
1 Tim. 6:3-5: “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings. Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself”.
2 John 1:9-11: “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him Godspeed: For he that biddeth him Godspeed is partaker of his evil deeds”.
Jesus Himself said this:
Matthew 10:34-35: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law”.
Mercy Ships states their goal is to show God's love. Why is that? One would assume it is so people will come to know Christ as their savior because everything else is of temporal benefit. If so, Mercy Ships would be considered an evangelistic organization, in which case it should be preaching the full and true gospel message of repentance and remission of sins. Otherwise, it is no different than the many other secular organizations in the world.
The main premise that needs to be established is that each Christian must obey what God says in the Bible. Obedience to God is first and foremost, and God will take care of the rest. On the surface, most people would say it is crazy to even think that Mercy Ships may not be an organization blessed by God, honoring Him and doing mighty works for Him. But in light of the previous points, I would encourage you to step back and look at what the Bible dictates as to how we should live and serve others and compare it to the guidelines by which Mercy Ships operates.
Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25 both say “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death”
Isaiah 55:9: For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 64:6: But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
It deeply saddens me, however, in light of all of the items mentioned above, I believe I must be obedient to what God has said in the Bible and have no choice but to discontinue support of an organization that has aligned itself with the world and ungodliness, as well as other professing Christians and unbelievers which do not follow the doctrines clearly stated in the Bible