Compassion for the Lost

{Matthew 9:36-38; ESV}

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

A good barometer for spiritual formation is the increased compassion we have for people. It is having a compassion for people that mirrors the compassion of Jesus.

When I was younger it was easy for me to harshly judge people going through difficult times. “After all,” I reasoned; “if they would make better choices they wouldn’t find themselves in those hardships.” Compassion was absent from my life. One reason I know I have progressed in my spiritual formation is because of the compassion I have for people. It breaks my heart to see people in tragic circumstances, regardless of the reason, because I know God has a life that is so much better than the one they are living.

I don’t want to diminish the responsibility each of us has for the choices that we make, but I have come to realize that many choices are made because people don't know there is a better alternative. They have had bad models for their lives and those models shaped how they would live their lives. They may want to change but don’t know what to do, or the lack the resources to do it.

We also need to remember many of the sin addictions people have are the result of their desire to cope with the tragic circumstances of their lives. Tragically they are now in a cycle form which they cannot free themselves.

When we read the gospels it appears that when Jesus looked at a crowd of people He didn’t see dirty rotten sinners. Instead Jesus saw people who were bullied, lost, and injured. Jesus did not condemn these poor souls because of their sin, rather he extended hands of mercy and healing to them. Jesus was the one person who could sit in judgment over them, but he chose to serve them instead.

When we believe we have God’s of truth it is tempting to judge people rather than to help them. That was one of the sins Jesus condemned the Pharisees for doing. They burdened people with law, but didn't lift a finger to help people.

Focusing solely on the truth can make us feel superior. When we feel superior we come to believe that we are in the position to judge the lives of those around us. This feeling of superiority also give us a sense that we are doing God’s work because we convince ourselves that we are standing up for God’s truth.

We need to remember that in Revelation 2:1-7 Jesus told the church in Ephesus that they were in danger of being shut out of the Kingdom because they did not love. the Ephesians were known for standing up for the truth, but they did not love like they were called to love.

Compassion, which is a form of love, must be mixed with truth. It is the mixture of the two which has the ability to change the life of the vilest sinner. The example of Jesus is that of compassion and truth. Jesus loved peopl where they were at, and yet he always told them the truth. Truth is a lot easier to take when you know it comes from a person who care for you.

Jesus looked at the crowds of people and He saw people who were lost and who had no idea how to find their way home. What these people needed was a person who would be compassionate enough to show them they way home.

The legions of people who need help are more than we can help by ourselves, so what can we do? If we are going to show compassion to the world we have to pray. Prayer helps us gain a proper perspective on life and what is happening around us. It also helps us to align our hearts with God’s hearts. On top of that we are to ask God to provide what we need: workers for the harvest. There is a shortage of leaders who are compassionate enough to show the lost the way home.

Compassion is not just reserved for our prayer life, but it must also be seen in the way we live life. This means we need to compassionately serve people, and thus show them that there is God who loves them. Through that experience hopefully they will begin to understand that there is a better way to live.

Ultimately what we need is a change of perspective. Instead of seeing the people of the world as dirty rotten sinners we need to see them as lost travelers who are being scammed, beaten, and harassed as they try to find their way home. May we have compassion on them and show them the way home.

Questions to Consider:

  • Have you experienced your compassion for people grow?
  • Why is it easy to judge people?
  • How did Jesus show compassion to people? How can you follow his example?

 

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