Summary: A talk encouraging the church to love one another, showing compassion to those in need as a sign of Christ’s love, and so that people will see we are his disciples.
[Note to the Reader - this talk owes a lot to the excellent book by Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg entitled Becoming a Contagious Christian]
This is the fourth talk in a series entitled Making Jesus Better Known. Week one was People Matter to God. Week two was Impacting Your World and week three was entitled to be Authentic is to be Attractive. Today’s talk is The Call to Compassion.
Some Churches base their strategy for outreach and mission on these two Bible verses and right now it is my prayer for us as a local Church: “Love one another”, says Jesus. “As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (13:34).
One of my favourite hymns is How Deep the Father’s Love for us; How vast beyond all measure! It is a love that saw Christ giving up his rights, his heavenly glory and even his earthly life to serve mankind, in order to sacrifice himself on the cross, and to save us. How deep the Father’s love for us; and Jesus says, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
Sometimes as I hear complaints and grumbles and gossip and upsets I wonder how much of Christ’s love there is in the person, but then I pray for Christ’s love to refresh and refine me, and then also to refresh and refine them.
Christ forgave me much, so I am called to forgive much. Christ holds out his hand to me every day and I am called to hold out my hand to you. Christ’s love meant he suffered for the gospel; so that might also be my experience. Christ met broken, hurting, vulnerable people and he had compassion on them.
Jesus says to us, “Love one another”. That means forgive each other. Look someone in the eye and show them love. Share food. Give to those in need. Seek out the lost and lonely, heal the battered and bruised, encourage the desperate and down-hearted, because as the brother of Jesus wrote, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:
“… Look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27); and that extends to all who are fatherless, and to anyone who has been abandoned by their partner, effectively leaving them as a widow or widower. Look after them. Include them in your life.
The call to compassion appears throughout the Bible. In the Old Testament God says this to his people: “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open-handed towards your brothers and towards the poor and needy in your land” (Deuteronomy 15:11); and elsewhere God commands believers to consider both the poor and foreigners when gathering in the harvest (Lev 19:10).
And just in case we want to argue that since we’re free from the law of the Old Testament the above does not apply, Jesus says this: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
God calls us to be compassionate. As we live like Christ we will have hearts filled with his compassion, and it is a quality that attracts people – because it is one of the marks of genuine Christianity; and when I say Christianity I mean living as a disciple of Christ – being Christian.
Our neighbours, our families, and work colleagues look to see our faith in action; and compassion borne out of love for Christ is faith in action.
John Maxwell says: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”; and Bill Hybels writes, “When action-oriented compassion is absent, it’s a tell-tale sign that something is spiritually amiss. Whether the problem is with the organisation or the individual, uncaring Christianity does not attract inquirers into its fold. But a clear and consistent demonstration of Christ-like love is a powerful magnet that pulls people towards him.
One day Jesus was in conversation with a pillar of the religious community (Luke 10: 25-37). “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus asks him, “What is written in the law?” and the man responds, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbour as yourself.” To which Jesus said, “Do this and you will live.”
The conversation continues and Jesus then illustrates the command by telling a story that we’ve come to know as the Good Samaritan. The two people from the local religious community you’d most expect to stop and help a beaten up man just walk on by and here’s the challenge and the question for us. Are there situations in our community where people are emotionally or physically beaten up and we are walking on by? Are there people who’re hurting, broken, disabled, unpopular, foreign, disturbed, bereaved, lonely, abandoned – left by the roadside?