Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Showing True Compassion like Jesus

By Enver Rahmanov (Own work)
Over the last several weeks, news headlines have highlighted the surge in illegal immigration from Mexico into the southern United States. The perennial debate of amnesty versus border enforcement has erupted again. As with other social issues, people are divided.

Social engineers argue that compassion dictates an open border. Many evangelical leaders have gone along with this and continue to lobby Washington to declare amnesty. They base their argument for this on Christian compassion. 

It seems for many, compassion equals social activism. But is that true compassion? How should Christians show compassion today? Does being compassionate like Jesus mean relaxing or refusing to enforce current law?

Christians throughout the years have engaged in social ministry: the orphanages of George Muller, the Sunday school movement in 18th century England, prison reform, and the abolition of slavery. All of these movements were started and carried on the shoulders of Christian churches and individuals. So what is the difference between then and now? The gospel.

True compassion comes from a response to the gospel and points to the gospel. True compassion sees spiritual depravity as man’s greatest need and the gospel as the truly compassionate answer to that need.

In Mark 6:30-44 Jesus demonstrates the nature of true compassion; a model Christians today should follow. Jesus shows his disciples then and now that true compassion sees the greatest need and then shares the greatest gift; the gospel of King Jesus. 

In Mark 6:30, the evangelist tells us that the disciples had just returned from their preaching tour around Galilee. They had been busy, night and day, with the ministry they had received from Jesus. Healing the sick, harrowing encounters with the demonic, and a heavy preaching schedule had left the disciples haggard with exhaustion (Mark 6:12, 31). At this point, Mark begins to highlight the true compassion of Jesus.

Jesus saw people's needs. He saw that the disciples were spent and needed rest (Mark 6:31), he saw that his followers needed food (Mark 6:37-44), and he showed patience for the immaturity he saw in the disciples (Mark 6:37, 38). Jesus models an others-centered life. But while these physical needs were important, they were really just secondary things. The disciples would get tired again. The crowds would hunger again. There was a greater need that everyone else was missing. 

Jesus saw deeper. He looked at the heart and he saw the greatest need of the people. This is his diagnosis, "He saw a huge crowd and had compassion  on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd (Mark 6:34)." Jesus saw beyond the hungry, milling crowds. He saw into their souls and was moved by their true plight; spiritual blindness. 

What made this appalling condition more grievous to Jesus, was that this was a very old problem. God had not left the people to themselves. He had given the nation of Israel spiritual leaders who were to shepherd God's people and lead them in God's paths. But over 400 years before the time of Christ, God had brought this charge against the men responsible for the spiritual care of his people. Their charge? Failed shepherds. Instead of leading and caring for God's people, they neglected and abused their position. And God was grieved by this (Ezekiel 34:1-24). 

When Jesus came, it had only grown worse. The people were still like sheep without a shepherd. Blind, lost, starving; sheep neglected by their shepherds. Jesus looked at what others saw as a burden (Mark 6:35-37) and saw the real need, the need for truth. Jesus felt compassion, real compassion, and then...he preached. Before Jesus set up the bread line and the soup kitchen, he preached the gospel. Mark tells us that after he looked at these forlorn people and felt compassion, "Then He began to teach them many things (Mark 6:34)."

Jesus didn't give them food, he didn't give them a job fair, he didn't give a lesson in self-help. No, he gave them the greatest gift. Jesus gave himself. Jesus gave the shepherd-less sheep himself, the true shepherd. The people didn't need more of themselves, more tradition, more confusion. They needed to know Jesus. So Jesus preached. He preached himself. 

Just like the nation of Israel in Jesus' time, the greatest need of our hour is repentance and faith in Jesus. People don't need a change in income, self-image, legal or social status; people need to be convicted of their sin and turn in faith to Jesus. But that means the greatest need or our time must be met by men like Jesus. Men who will look and see the greatest heart needs around them. Men who seeing the greatest need, will come forward and proclaim the gospel of King Jesus. 

Last week, N.D. Wilson penned a call for modern-day prophets. 
Prophets must be fearless, immune to the pressures of kings and crowds, aligned only with the breath of God. We are in need of prophets now. Christians are scattered, but the world's wind is heavy and unified… Prophets must be immune to floggings on Facebook and Twitter. They must be fearless before friends and tenure committees and stadiums filled with the priests of Baal. The cool-shaming can have no sting. The world is busy applying pressure on "social issues," and Christians are busy caving left and right, trying to accept fresh cultural dogma simply so that they might be accepted. Many of us would rather be in compliance with the crowd of now than successfully image the loves and hates of our Father. But his breath rolls the North Sea and props up mountains. His words ripen fields of grain and infants still hidden in wombs' warmth. May we run parallel to his breeze alone.
This is the call that Jesus puts to all his men today. The charge given to the disciples has passed to us today (Matthew 28:18-20). Yes, the needs of many press in on the church today. But men of God must see the greatest need and proclaim the greatest answer. We need a new generation of prophets. Men who will stand fast and declare, “thus says the Lord.” You don’t have to be a pastor to do this. You just have to be faithful to point people to Jesus and his salvation. Jesus saw the greatest need and gave the greatest answer. The call is now given to you. Go and do likewise. 

John Knox Preaching, By Kim Traynor (Own work)
(], via Wikimedia Commons

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