I have always seen Matthew 28:19-20 as complementary to Micah 6:8, where God clearly lays out three marks of those who walk with Him: Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.
That combination of justice and mercy in our walk with God is transformational. Jesus’ own life demonstrated that. In fact, His insistence on justice for the poor, the hurting and those trapped in fear caught the attention of the people. His lifestyle emitted a life-giving aroma, especially juxtaposed against the dead religion of the time.
Justice and mercy (or compassion) were prophesied as Jesus’ calling card:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Isaiah 61:1-2).
When John was in prison and needed assurance that Jesus was the Christ, Jesus did not talk with him about sound doctrine. Instead, He shared stories of mercy, because justice and mercy are a demonstration of sound doctrine:
“Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor” (John 7:22).
What does it look like to live out justice and mercy in the EFCA? When I look at the early history of the movement, I am blown away by the Norwegian women in Brooklyn, maids with only Sunday off. They worked hard but then gave half of their pay to the church to further the proclamation of the gospel among the sailors.
Also in Brooklyn, ministry among the abused Chinese garment workers was costly and dangerous. But ministries like the Dorcus House did evangelism. Some of these workers never married because they were working to further the Kingdom of God.