Passage of the Month: Romans 12:1-2-1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Matthew 20:29-34 29 As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. 30 Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” 31 The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” 32 Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. 33 “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.” 34 Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.
Colossians 3:12-12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion . . .
Not all of us are natural feelers. We aren’t all naturally wired to be emotionally moved by someone’s pain. I’m not too much of a feeler outside of this pulpit. For some reason when I stand behind this piece of plexiglass, I turned to mush. Compassion isn’t part of my natural wiring, but it is something the Holy Spirit has birthed in me as I have journeyed with Christ. I would also say that my compassion skills have grown as a result of parenting. My kids might beg to differ, but I am at least on the map somewhere with compassion as it relates to them where I don’t think I was before they were born. As I yield to the Holy Spirit and choose to be transformed by the renewing of my mind, the unconcerned, career-focused pattern of the world has been giving way to the compassionate mind, mood, and actions of Jesus.
- Compassion means-PASSION for people. Do you notice that the word “passion” is tucked inside the word “compassion?” Pretty cool, right? And it makes for a nice sermon point! If we aren’t passionate about people we will never become people of compassion. It is our passion for others, our desire to help others experience salvation and the difference Christ makes, it is our recognition that every life matters, every life is valuable, every life counts, that moves us to want to be a difference-maker.
I have shared this story before, but it speaks so poignantly to this idea of being passionate about people. The story is told of a couple who needed a break so they escaped for a few days of relaxation at an oceanfront hotel. One night a violent storm lashed the beach and sent massive waves thundering against the shore. The man lay in his bed listening and thinking about his own stormy life of never-ending demands and pressures.
The wind finally died down and shortly before daybreak the man slipped out of bed and took a walk along the beach to see what damage had been done. As he strolled, he saw that the beach was covered with starfish that had been thrown ashore and helplessly stranded by the great waves. Once the morning sun burned through the clouds, the starfish would dry out and die.
Suddenly the man saw an interesting sight. A young boy who had also noticed the plight of the starfish was picking them up, one at a time, and flinging them back into the ocean. “Why are you doing that?” the man asked the boy as he got close enough to be heard. “Can’t you see that one person will never make a difference—you’ll never be able to get all those starfish back into the water. There are just too many.”
“Yes, that’s true,” the boy sighed as he bent over and picked up another and tossed it back into the water. Then as he watched it sink, he looked at the man, and smiled, and said, “But it sure made a difference to that one.” Often, there is so much to do that it sometimes can seem overwhelming. But, any difference made in the life of another through the ministry of compassion will bear fruit to the glory of God!
You can’t do everything, but you can do something, and that something begins by being passionate about people. For the person who needs extra help, be patient and be helpful. For the person who sits alone at lunch, be friendly and inclusive. For the person who is bullied because someone decides they are different or someone decides it would make them feel better about themselves to pick on someone else, take a stand for the victim.
While walking home from school, a boy named Mark noticed the boy ahead of him had stumbled to the ground and dropped everything he was carrying. Mark hurried to the boy’s side and helped him collect his belongings. Surprisingly, the boy was carrying an especially hefty load. There was a baseball glove and bat, a couple of sweaters, a small tape recorder, and an armful of books.
Mark helped him carry the things home and his new friend, Bill, was most appreciative of his compassion. During the walk home Mark discovered Bill was struggling in school and had just broken up with his girlfriend. When they arrived at Bill’s house, he invited Mark in for a Coke and they spent the rest of the afternoon talking, laughing, and watching TV. Although the two boys never became real close friends, they kept up with each other throughout the rest of junior high and high school.
Several weeks before graduation, Bill approached Mark and asked him if he remembered that day they met when Mark helped him with all of his stuff. Mark nodded as he remembered. Bill then asked, “Did you ever wonder why I was carrying so many things that day?” Without pausing for an answer, Bill explained he had cleaned out his locker and was going home to take his life. He had been storing away sleeping pills and was headed home to end it all when Mark happened along to help him out. Bill told Mark how that simple act of compassion inspired him to go on living. He said, “Mark, when you picked up my books that day, you saved my life!” Imagine how many times our small, seemingly insignificant gestures of concern may reignite the flame of life and inspire someone to continue on.
Whose books can we pick up? Actually, one of the catalysts for this message was hearing about how one of our middle schoolers, Ashton Hanson, stood up to some bullies who were purposely bumping into one of her friends and calling her horrible names. At the risk of becoming a target herself, Ashton took a stand for a friend. Care and concern for people, passion for people, should move us to action.
Will you stop right now and pray a silent prayer asking God to help you become more passionate for people?
- Compassion makes us stop.
Matthew 20:32 tells us that when Jesus heard the blind men calling out, He stopped. Have you ever been in a hurry and felt the necessity to move past someone who could have used your help? Have you ever been so focused on what you were doing and were trying to accomplish that even though you knew someone needed assistance you couldn’t force yourself to stop doing what you were doing to give the support needed? We have all been there. It is human to get “in the zone” and to want to check off the things on our “to do” list.
Of course, Jesus stopped. He was always stopping. Remember the story of Jairus who came to meet Jesus? He shared the urgent and distressing news, that his daughter was at home and was about to die. He had asked Jesus to please come quickly to his home. As they started to journey toward the synagogue ruler’s home, a woman with a blood disorder pressed through the crowd to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe because she knew if she did she would be healed. Even though there was a little girl on her deathbed who needed Jesus’ touch, Jesus stopped for a moment to offer not only physical healing, but spiritual healing as well for the woman who had touched Him in faith. He went on to heal the little girl, of course, but just take note that He stopped along the way.
Perhaps that isn’t so shocking to read and absorb, but when I think about the fact that Jesus stopped here in Matthew chapter 20, knowing what the first part of chapter 21 says, it is incredible to me that Jesus stopped. For Jesus was on his way out of Jericho in Matthew 20:29, and He was headed into the highest moment of His earthly life. He was headed to Jerusalem where He would be hailed as the King during the triumphal entry on Palm Sunday. And on His way, to the biggest moment of His life, He stopped. He took time. He showed compassion.
Would we do the same? If we were on our way to an awards banquet where we knew we would be receiving the company’s top honor, would we stop to show someone compassion? For what do we stop in general? If we are to become like Jesus we are to be moved with compassion to the point that it doesn’t matter where we are headed, we will willingly stop if someone is in need of our compassion.
Will you now stop and pray a prayer asking God to enable you to not only see needs but to stop and respond to them?
- Compassion moves us to ask questions.
Jesus stopped and asked the blind men the question, “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus obviously knew what they needed, and yet He asked them the question. Perhaps He was modeling some effective ministry for us. We may look at a situation and think we know what would be helpful, but it might not be what the person really needs the most. We may think that a busy couple who have undergone some stress need a casserole dropped off at their home which wouldn’t be a bad thing. I would personally never turn down a casserole. But perhaps what they need is free babysitting and a night out.
When you know that someone is dealing with a difficult life circumstance, asking how you can pray for them specifically is a great question to ask. Asking them if you could take something off of their plate for a month, what that might be, would be a great question. Some people are tougher to show compassion to than others because they don’t want to be a bother or burden. They might say, “Just pray.” So, you might say, “If it is alright, I would like to mow your grass this week so you don’t have to worry about that.” Ask God to give you a creative mind to know how to be a blessing to others.
Let me just take some pressure off of everyone by saying, “You don’t have to have the ability to meet every need just because you ask what you can do for someone.” If someone shares that they need $5,000.00 for some bill, you aren’t automatically responsible for writing a check. (Everyone said, “Whew!”) Maybe that is what keeps some people from asking questions; the fear of getting an answer which would leave them scratching their heads thinking, “How can I do anything about what I have just heard?” Do you know what it means to a person who is emotionally treading water that you even cared to ask? Whether you can help or not, just to know that someone sees what you are going through and is willing to listen for a few minutes can be such a stress reliever, fear reliever or anxiety reliever.
Sometimes as you begin to talk with people, they start to come up with solutions for their problems that they hadn’t even considered before. Just by brainstorming with people, a lot can be accomplished.
Will you now stop and pray and ask God to help you ask the kind of questions that will lead people to share what their needs are in a way that helps people know you care?
- Compassion models what the world needs to see.
Several things have happened this last week that have reminded me that our world needs a good lesson on showing compassion. I was blessed to be able to conduct the funeral for Tom McClellan, my neighbor, and a man who affiliated with TVCOG some years ago. As I was second in the procession to the cemetery that led from Chapman Funeral Home to Barboursville I was reminded of the way things used to be. It used to be that all cars would pull over to show respect and concern for those who were grieving as a funeral procession was passing by. Many did. Many didn’t. I think acknowledging those who are grieving and showing sympathy by pulling over is a good thing we have lost sight of in today’s fast-paced culture.
When the news started reporting the burning down of the Green Valley Church of God, our sister church in St. Alban’s, I clicked on the comments below to read what people were saying. I was astounded to read, and disheartened to read, and even a smidge angry to read things like this:
Imagine a God that would set his own house on fire and all the while just watching it burn. I guess that settles that argument!
God sure does perform a lot of miracles for someone who couldn’t even put out a fire.
Just pray. That should fix it.
Looks like Maranatha was taking out the competition.
To mock and ridicule, to make a jab or joke, to speak without consideration for the sense of profound loss and anguish many were in and will be in for a while and to do so in such a public way tells me we have a huge compassion problem. I was quickly reminded by the Holy Spirit that the people who made those comments haven’t experienced Christ’s compassion which really transforms the way we look at others. It was obvious, however, that the world needs to see Christians responding with empathy. The world needs to see Christians standing shoulder to shoulder with those who are hurting and not see us making light of anyone’s pain.
And in my opinion, the bullying epidemic in our schools and online is one of the all-time crises in our culture. Yes, we need a backbone and we can’t let everything everyone says get in our crawl or mess with our minds, but when you are an adolescent, you don’t have the same capacity to make those decisions like you hopefully will as you age. Not only do bullies fail to acknowledge someone’s pain, but they are adding to it. Bullying cannot be part of a Christian’s behavior. Name-calling, belittling, and making fun of people because of where they live, what they wear, what challenge they might face, the color of their skin, their interests or hobbies, whether they excel in school or not, or how attractive or unattractive you deem them to be— none of that is appropriate for believers. Remember, we are to live counter-culture. We are to be different. We are to emulate God’s standard in this world.
Those who were in the crowd that day with Jesus that day weren’t compassionate. Verse 31 tells us they rebuked the blind men and told them to be quiet. Jesus modeled a different way, a counter-culture way, when He stopped to talk to them. We are called to model the Jesus’ way of responding to people in need.
- Compassion is ministry that results in miracles.
The blind men received their sight. You and I have no power in and of ourselves to perform miracles, however, if we have the Spirit of God living inside of us, as we touch people in Jesus’ name whether physically or through acts of kindness or through the ministry of prayer, we can believe God to be at work in miraculous ways in their lives.
In the past six months, Pastor Thom and I have been blessed to assist two families in receiving vehicles that were free to them. They weren’t our vehicles. We just learned of the need, shared the need, and stood back to watch God work. How many of you would agree that receiving a vehicle for free is a miracle?
Early this week a family from St. Alban’s reached out to me to tell me that their couch broke. It was severely old and had been given to them, and they were grateful for it, but now it had broken and they had no way to replace it. Tom McClellan’s family asked me the next day if I knew anyone who needed some furniture. That may not sound like a miracle to you, but to the person receiving the couch, chair, and end tables, it was a miracle.
Today, at 5 pm several of us will gather to prepare boxed dinners through a ministry called “The Pack Shack.” We are hoping to box 12,000 meals that will be taken to the Community Cupboard in Hurricane to feed hungry people. That may not seem like the making of a miracle, but to the person who is hungry, it will be.
When you give of your resources through this ministry or to people directly who are in need, that may not seem like a miracle, but to the person who can’t pay their electric bill, it is.
When you see someone walk into the sanctuary alone, and you ask if you can sit next to them and you engage them in conversation, that may not seem like a miracle, but to the person whose greatest fear was walking through the doors alone, it is.
When you ask the young girl who doesn’t have a lot of resources if you could help pay for a prom dress or school clothes that may not seem like a miracle, but to them it is.
When you reach out to one of our long-term prayer need people who are listed in the bulletin and ask if you can drop by for a visit, that may not seem like a miracle, but to them, it becomes healing and a drink of living water.
Will you stop and pray that God will use you through the ministry of compassion to perform His miraculous work in the life of someone else this week?
You never know the totality of what people are dealing with and how showing compassion could be just what is needed to change the course of their day or their circumstances forever.
Stephen Covey tells of an unusual experience on the New York subway. While people were sitting quietly in the car, a man entered with his noisy and rambunctious children. The man sat down and closed his eyes as though he was oblivious to his rowdy children. The once quiet subway car was now a disturbing place of chaos. The children’s inappropriate behavior was obvious to everyone except their father. Finally, Covey confronted the man about his children. The man opened his eyes and evaluated the situation as if he were unaware of all that had transpired: “Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital, where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.”
People are hurting. We must respond with compassion.
Colossians 3:12-12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion . . .
Compassion. It begins with a passion for people. It makes us stop and ask questions. It shows the world what God is like and how He wants us to treat each other. It might be a quiet expression, a few minutes of our time, a listening ear or a helping hand, but it has the power to work wonders, miracles, in life after life after life. Let’s put on compassion, the compassion of Christ.