Summary: True love sees the need, feels the need and meets the need.
In nearly 27 years of pastoral ministry, I have been asked some tough questions about the Christian faith. One of the toughest questions regards the problem of evil and why a good and all-powerful God allows people to suffer in this world. Peter Kreeft, a Christian apologist and philosopher, has some good answers to this question, but perhaps one of the best is contained in a cartoon of two turtles he has posted on his office door (show picture of 2 turtles on PowerPoint).
One turtle says, “Sometimes I’d like to ask why God allows poverty, famine, and injustice when he could do something about it.”
The other turtle replies, “I’m afraid God might ask me the same question.” (Peter John Kreeft, quoted in Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith, Zondervan, 2001, p. 50)
The point is: God HAS done something to alleviate the suffering in this world. He sent Jesus into OUR pain, who then sent US to be His hands and feet in a world full of pain. That’s the power of the cross! For those of us who live in dependence upon Christ, He is in the process of replacing our sinful, selfish, self-centered hearts with HIS heart of compassion.
But what does that compassion look like? What kind of compassion specifically is Jesus working in my heart to produce? Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Mark 8, Mark 8, where Jesus demonstrated His heart of compassion while He was here on this earth.
Mark 8:1-3 During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.” (NIV)
Jesus sees that the people are hungry. Jesus sees their need, and that’s where real compassion begins. It begins when we…
SEE THE NEED.
Real compassion looks beyond the faults of people to see the pain beneath it all and to see the hunger in people’s hearts.
In research done by Darley and Batson at Princeton in years ago (1973), a group of theology students was told that they were to go across campus to deliver a sermon on the topic of the Good Samaritan. As part of the research, some of these students were told that they were late and needed to hurry up. Along their route across campus, Darley and Baston had hired an actor to play the role of a victim who was coughing and suffering.
Ninety percent of the “late” students in Princeton Theology Seminary ignored the needs of the suffering person in their hurry to get across campus. “Indeed,” the study reports, “on several occasions, a seminary student going to give his talk on the parable of the Good Samaritan literally stepped over the victim as he hurried away!” (Marshall Goldsmith, “Goal 1, Mission 0,” Fast Company, August 2004; www.PreachingToday.com)
Sometimes we’re in such a hurry, we don’t even see the need, and that can happen even when we’re preparing to do ministry, whether it’s preaching or some other church program. We can get so set on our agenda that we don’t see the need God places right before us.
As a pastor, it makes me wonder, “What needs am I overlooking?” There is great need around us! Do we see it? Or do we just go about doing church hoping nobody with any real needs gets in our way? I don’t know about you, but I need a lot of help in this area.
Jesus, help me to see what you see. Help me to see the need all around me. That’s a prayer we ALL can pray every day, because that’s where real compassion starts. And that’s the kind of heart Jesus is working to produce in us as we depend on Him. Please, don’t be afraid to let Him touch your heart. Trust Him and let Him help you see the need. Then let Him help you…
FEEL THE NEED, as well.
Don’t stop with just seeing the need. Sympathize with those in need, and sense their pain.
That’s what Jesus did. In verse 2, Jesus said, “I have COMPASSION for these people.” Literally, “I feel moved to my bowels,” or “I feel it in my gut.” The word for “compassion” speaks of the “bowels” or the “intestines,” which people in Bible days considered the seat of the more intense emotions. Jesus’ “compassion” was no passing passion. It was no fleeting feeling. No.
Jesus felt for these people intensely, and tthey were not even His kind of people. Remember, Jesus was in Gentile territory. According to Mark 7:31, He was in “the region of the Decapolis,” east of the Sea of Galilee. These were “Gentile Dogs,” so called by the Jewish people. Even so, Jesus had deep feelings for these people.