Sermon Outline (Youth)

United in peace, for the world, we are called to love mercy and do justice.

Message Outline
NOTE: You may choose to prepare some ideas ahead of time for possible ongoing social justice projects that could create relationship with those being served. If you need suggestions, reach out to the office of Love Mercy Do Justice by emailing

  1. We've Got It a Little Twisted
  2. The Kind of Fast God Wants
  3. Beyond Random Acts of Kindness
  4. It's for Your Benefit
  5. A Way of Living
  6. If You Do This...THen You Will See That
  7. It's a Partnership

We've Got It a Little Twisted
Some of us tend to think very highly of ourselves. We think we’re doing all the right things and that God should be pretty pleased with how awesome we are. We wonder whether he’s seen our works or noticed how rightly we live.

But we’ve got it a little twisted.

Sometimes we think that we earn God’s favor and that our good works will determine how much attention God will pay us. The more we do for him, we think, the more he’ll be on our side!

The Kind of Fast God Wants
One of the godly acts we may practice is fasting. When we fast for ourselves, it becomes a selfish, personal activity. Isaiah is not with that!

Read Isaiah 58:6: “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:”

Isaiah is dropping it hot right at the top, letting us know that what’s coming next is what God wants. Sometimes you may wonder what God is trying to say in a passage, but he’s pretty plain here. Our “fasts,” our “holy” acts are irrelevant to God if we ignore some very real issues.

Beyond Random Acts of Kindness

To loose the chains of injustice
   and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
— Isaiah 58:6-7

These very real issues are themes that God points back to over and over again in the Scriptures. What does it mean to you to loosen the chains of injustice, to set the oppressed free, to break yokes, to share what we have with those who don’t have, to bring the homeless into our world, to give clothing and shelter to the naked, to reconcile with our families, to help the distressed? Addressing these real issues is the kind of fast God wants—to address tough issues and not ignore them.

Perhaps your group has signed up for the occasional “feed the hungry” event or even given clothes to a homeless organization. Those are good things—please, keep doing that! However, God is calling for more than yearly random acts of kindness. “And if you don’t know, now you know” that these positive behaviors carry heavy social consequences and are actions that can restructure some of our relationships. However, they have other implications that we’ll get into in a minute, but first.

It's for Your Benefit
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
    and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
— Isaiah 58:8–9

These verses should really get you excited because they are for our benefit. When we show God that we love our neighbor by not ignoring their problems, he answers our calls. We show God that we love our neighbor, and he will have our back. When we show God that we love our neighbor, he is present. That’s exciting!

A Way of Living
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,

then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
— Isaiah 58:9-12

We will shine bright like a diamond if we work against oppression. If we work on the behalf of the oppressed, spend our days feeding the hungry, we will become rebuilders. We will be active participants in rebuilding people, towns, and cities. And the Lord will guide us always.

That is how God calls us to be together, to help one another. We are called to be a community of believers who love mercy and do justice. We’re called to be a people who understand God’s heart to help the broken—no matter how they broke. We, the church, should be standing with and working on behalf of those in need. We the church answer that call to help make this world a better place, a rebuilt place, and we seek justice, mercy, peace, and redemption as the norm, not the exception.

What Isaiah is saying is that the fasting God has chosen is to do these things. And they’re not to be done once or twice a year. They aren’t singular acts of selflessness, but a whole undoing and deconstruction of unjust relationships. These verses tie into our CHIC theme of unite, especially when we realize that God is with us and caring for us.

Through Isaiah God is saying that this fast that he chooses is a whole new way of thinking and living. The fasting God calls acceptable is a daily fast from dominance over the oppressed; a fast from blaming others for life’s problems; a fast from evil speech; a fast from self-gratification; a fast from entitlement and privilege. God wants us to be vigilant and to call for justice wherever we see injustice and to show generosity every day. Our goodness cannot be separate from our everyday life.

If we do this, then we will unite! Doing good together helps to bring us all together in unity.

If You Do This...Then You Will See That
In Isaiah 58 we see this phrase repeated: “If you do this…then you will see that.” If we as a community of believers choose the fast that God sets as good and right, then we’ll see amazing things happen. The text says we’ll see light, healing, help, protection, needs satisfied and, most important, the presence of God to guide us. We’ll see the lives of people changed and we’ll be change agents in helping that happen.

We’ll also see full and right relationships with people we meet on the margins of our society, the oppressed and poor. We will be a part of their movement from the edges to the center where Christ is. Isn’t that unity? Wouldn’t it be a beautiful thing to be known for repairing broken places and rebuilding roads and houses? Or, put another way, we make pathways to life and joy in Christ along with open communities of people from every strata of our society. That sounds like heaven.

It's a Partnership
And through all this work, God will dwell among all his people, living with us daily, so it becomes a partnership. God doesn’t work in isolation like a lone wolf, and we weren’t created to live without him. Instead it becomes a partnership between God and his people. We become participants in God’s work on this planet and we act along with him. Our lights will shine and break through the darkness. We can stand alongside God and, like Isaiah, say, “Here I am. Send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

God calls us to unite with him by loving mercy and doing justice. We will unite with him and with others as we seek to be light in the darkness and we can stand alongside him and others.

What can we do together to love mercy and do justice? Using the ideas you came up with ahead of time, lead a discussion on social justice projects that your group can undertake in your community.

A fundamental step in engaging in social justice projects is developing a mindset of openness, self-reflection, and awareness. It’s helpful to do research to understand the historical facts and data, but building an emotional connection is the best way to awaken awareness and to make the concepts tangible and personal for students.

Remember, the kind of fast that God wants is selfless. Remember to think of others before thinking of yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions.


  • Meditate on the Scripture passage, particularly verses 6-12. What insights come to mind as you think about the kind of fast God wants? Does any reprogramming need to take place in your context?
  • Ask if there is a way of living that you could change? How could you do more?
  • The action step here is to change our thinking so we can change our actions. How are you going to step out in obedience as the Holy Spirit guides you?
  • What projects can you be a part of or even start that will help the oppressed and the poor?
  • What projects can you be a part of or even start that will help the oppressed and the poor?
  • How can you make sure that you will be a rebuilder?

Extra food for thought:

  1. Are we putting God’s teachings into practice and allowing them to change our behavior going forward?
  2. How can we plan to exercise compassion for the weak, the vulnerable, and the marginalized?
  3. Who can we ask for help in understanding issues that might seem foreign to us?
  4. How do we identify neighbors in our lives?