Advent Series 1John 3 to 5 “The Gift of Compassion”
Compassion is the trait of sharing and caring for others in their time of need. The Apostle John lived his last years in Ephesus but his heart is seen for those less fortunate, like the prisoners he ate, slept and worked with on the Isle of Patmos. He never mentions that time other than in Revelation but we can see his heart in this letter.
First, he notes that there are those who have lost loved ones to death and he mourns with them but reminds them that if they were believers and have entered eternity they will see Christ as he is. Don Wyrtzen wrote a hymn who shares this sentiment: “But just think of stepping on shore-And finding it Heaven! Of touching a hand-And finding it God’s! Of breathing new air-And finding it celestial! Of waking up in glory-And finding it home!”
Because we are here in an earthly realm John wants us to keep the gospel message alive and we do it as he and James said. “love other fellow Christians.” Then John asks a pointed question: how can you say that the love of God resides in you if you lack compassion to those in need? This is one of those pointed “ouch” questions. John wants us to know Him as He is known and reach out to others in their time of need.
It may be Christmas but the message is the same: Christ is the gift God has given to us and we are to share that gift with others.
Thorns and Thistles are part of our world and when experiencing them we respond with “ouch.” But, we also meet them as thorny people. Their attitude and countenance say, leave me alone. You ask how they are doing but their response is a cold shoulder. OUCH. We think what did I do to deserve that? You fail to respond instantly when another is hurting and they offer unkind words. OUCH! It seems they carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. They have been pricked and want you to feel their prick as well. Yet holy people don’t prick with thorns but God’s compassion. The prescription is to
- Always rejoice.
- Constantly pray.
- In everything give thanks.
But how do we do that when with the thorny people who unruly, fainthearted, weak and yes antagonistic? We are to admonish them and to esteem them highly in love. The “thorns” remind you to rejoice, pray, and be grateful knowing that God is in charge, not us, and He is working this that they might know and trust Him in all circumstances. This is God’s will for them and us because we are reconciled to Himself through Christ’s sacrificial death and are therefore a new creation in Christ.
Stop and think about this. When we respond in a thorny fashion we are grieving or extinguishing the Holy Spirit’s power. OUCH. Don’t be a thorn. Today choose joy, prayer, and gratitude. Don’t let the thorns prick you taking away your joy and don’t you be a thorn in return. Listen carefully to the voice of the Spirit!
The Apostle Matthew, the tax collector, knows true versus false compassion.If there was on Apostle that truly understood rejection by the religious establishment, it is Matthew. That is why it is important that we see this chapter through his eyes and why he intertwines the religious leader’s false faith and the Canaanite woman’s true faith so we might have a heart for those who are seeking mercy and healing.
Do we recognize true faith as Jesus did or are we like the religious leaders who were guided solely by their traditional faith path which says: “Truth is what you’ve always been taught.” (Mark Mittelberg). This is where we all need to learn compassion and Jesus used this lesson to bring that home to their and our consciences.
The disciples were only concerned that Jesus had offended the religious leaders but Jesus wanted them to learn a higher lesson: prejudices and hypocrisy rule those who are blind. To further teach this lesson Jesus takes the disciples to the area of the Gentiles,to the Canaanite area that the Jews so despised. The disciples were concerned that Jesus had offended them but Jesus will teach them that those who are truly seeking will come and not be offended when the truth is revealed. This Gentile Canaanite woman clearly understood one truth that we all need to know:
Jesus is not only the Son of David but He is Lord and He is merciful.
He wanted the disciples to see themselves for who they really were: hypocrites no better than the religious leaders because they allowed prejudice to rule their compassion meter.
How often are we dependent upon our traditions or are ruled by our prejudices? True compassion sees the crack in the heart which needs healing. He who “knows what is good to do and does not do it is guilty of sin.”[James 4]
The psalmist beautifully records his thoughts about God in all of his glory as he exalts him in the descriptions as the true God, the God of the heavens who rides his chariots upon the clouds and across the desert sands. God’s perspective is from on high and from there He leads for He who goes before us is also blocking the way of the enemy who seeks to harm us. Chris Tomlin’s praise song “Whom Shall I Fear” captures some of these thoughts:
“I know who goes before me, I know who stands behind, the God of angel armies is always by my side”
Also, Paul visualizes this powerful majestic God when he writes: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Paul knew the truth that when our archenemy is on the prowl “God springs into action.” Thus, He alone is worthy of our praise whether he rides on the desert or in the heavens in his chariot. He is our victorious leader and we are to extol his virtues for he cares for the least and rescues them. His power is limitless and his compassion is revealed: “He is a father to the fatherless and an advocate for widows.”
In these challenging times continue to cling and trust him. God is performing his work in your life that his name might be glorified. There is a purpose and a plan that we may not see but this one thing we do know; 1Co 2:9 “Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love him.”
Photo: Unsplash.com/Nick Tong
As we are walking through Passion Week and soon will celebrate Resurrection Sunday it is important for us to step back and look at the life of Christ and the writer Mark will be our guide. As we begin we see that Mark reveals the urgency of Christ’s message to a world wallowing in sin. He shows us His authority over the physical elements of sin. He shows us His compassion over us who are held in the grip of sin.
It is this last element that grips our hearts this week as we see our blessed Savior hung on a cruel cross because men were blind by choice to who Jesus truly was. He was a man yet he was God in his humanness. He was as the demoniac said “the Holy One of God” to show us His goodness and His love for mankind. He was a man who walked, talked and saw the effects of sin yet with a heart of compassion. It was this character quality we see as he silenced the demons, with gentleness lifted an ailing woman from her sick bed, reached out to a leper to heal him not just because he was able but because he was willing. This is the gospel or good news we are to proclaim this week for we have the message, we have been touched and healed.
Beloved there are people all around us who are wallowing in sin and Christ is the authority who can heal them because He is the Compassionate Christ. May we take time this week to show and reveal compassion to another.