Tim Keller puts things the way most of us would never think to. For him, loving God and neighbor isn't the nebulous affection we typically think of; it means our hearts and minds are wholly surrendered to the Most High, and that we meet the needs of others as quickly and thoroughly and joyfully as we meet our own. We're called to an attitude and the resultant action, and only those two in tandem constitute true devotion.
Mercy is a duty. Man is separated from God in every possible way, and our task as His children is to continue the work of reconciliation begun by Jesus Christ, to meet the spiritual, psychological, emotional, and physical needs of others. Christians are to do this as individuals, families, and churches, and they are to help supply physical wants as eagerly as they preach the Gospel.
Keller organizes these themes around the story of the good Samaritan found in the Gospel of Luke, which is also the basis for the subtitle: The Call of the Jericho Road. It is this parable, he argues, that provides our most vivid picture of what ministry should look like. The Samaritan on the dangerous road to Jericho gave up his safety, his cleanliness, his time, his money, and his prejudices to help a complete stranger....and so must we.
The act of mercy isn't just for deacons. It's a Christian activity. It's also an ordered activity, one that begins with those closest and moves out into the broader community and the world. Our first duty is to our families, then to our congregations, then to our communities, then to the world at large. Keller maintains a balance throughout, however, demonstrating how we can't focus on any of these tiers to the exclusion of the othrs.
How do we make such a multi-level minstry happen? how do we care for the physical and spiritual needs of the poor simultaneously? who are the poor, for that matter? All these questions are answered from Scripture. Questions for reflection and discussion appear throughout, helping us achieve the right attitude while preparing strategies for aid and assistance.
One of the best elements of this book is the perspective. Keller calls for nothing less than the radical pursuit of Christ through giving, not a set of programs, not a legalistic rulebook, not anything but the acting out of the Gospel in truth and love. God has given us all riches through His Son—how could we keep those from the rest of the world? Keller argues we cannot.