Thursday, June 19, 2014

Compassion Radar

Jesus seems to have a heightened sense of compassion when he finds himself in a crowd.  It was kind of like when Dr. Xavier went into Cerebro and an could detect all the mutants in the world, he could see into their reality, he could feel their pain.  Well maybe it wasn't exactly like X-men, but there's something about seeing a group of people who are broken, oppressed, afflicted and desperate stirs the kingdom of heaven in Jesus, causes him to identify with them.  Imagine, leaving a perfect place with no brokenness, no oppression, no sickness, no evil to step into this mess we find ourselves in.  But he did, he step out of heaven and in to our mess.  He walked around, saw and experienced first hand just how far we've fallen.  No wonder it caused him to be sick to his stomach.  That's what the word we've translated 'compassion' meant, by the way, "moved to the bowels", the part of the body where his contemporaries believed love and pity were situated.  I know that's weird, but that's what it meant when he had compassion on them.  So those butterflies you feel when you first fall in love and that sickness you feel when you see some great injustice seem to be where the Holy Spirit hangs out.  When someone tells you to trust your gut, maybe what they really mean is, live by the Spirit.

My fear is that I've become dull to that thing inside me that was inside Jesus causing him to have compassion on the crowds, and that thing that compelled and empowered him respond to individuals in the crowd.  There is something about getting up close and personal with the crowd that causes that dullness to disappear, it changes the reality of suffering.  The 24hr 'news' networks blasting us with the suffering and brokenness in the world has had the opposite effect that it should in many cases.  The videos of war torn countries, refugee camps and hungry kids have become just another TV show rather than the cruel reality that we've help create in many cases.  We've become immune to that which should move us with compassion.  But something is different when you get in the crowd.

I got to go to Ethiopia for 10 days and meet some of those kids in person.  I got to play soccer and share their food and tell them about the Jesus.  Their faces got tattooed in my brain, their stories got written in my heart.  Something changed when I got to walk in the crowd.  The compassion got stirred up in me, it made me sick to my stomach that these kids were orphans by no fault of their own.  It made me want to do something to heal them, and set them free and show them there's a God who loves them more than anything, thou their circumstances tell them different.  I had no desire for them to believe my doctrine.  I had no hope that they would trust my theology.  I only wanted them to experience my faith, a faith that was given to me by Jesus through the Holy Spirit that has revealed to me that my Father in heaven loves me no matter what my circumstances or my failures may try to dictate to me.  He is love, I feel it in my gut.

But compassion isn't just for poor African orphans.  I had to come home.  I live in Cape Breton not Addis Ababa.  It doesn't seem like Jesus compassion was limited by circumstance and location.  Matthew 9:35-36 says, "Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd."  Everywhere Jesus was he recognized the brokenness and he responded as the Holy Spirit stirred compassion in him because it's all around us.  If we don't see it we really are blind.  I live in a place where most of the people have never heard the Good News that Jesus came to rescue them and give them real life, healing and freedom.  If they have heard about Jesus, it's some kind of half truth that's lead them into religious gobbledygook that puts them further into a hole they can't dig out of.  Not only have they probably not heard it, they've probably never seen it put into action.  Our churches are good and meeting and teaching and preaching and talking.  Maybe we're not as good at healing and feeding and freeing and caring for people who are 'harassed and helpless'.

If we're really living by the Spirit, as Jesus told us we could, we have to listen to Him when he stirs compassion in us.  We have to listen to our gut.  If you get those butterflies in your stomach when the Holy Spirit is stirring you up to something, do it.  That is the power of the Holy Spirit in you trying to get you to let him out so the Kingdom of Heaven can come to earth through the love he's poured into you.  Maybe that looks like you "proclaiming the good news" to someone.  Don't worry, you don't need a soap box, just tell them God's not angry and he loves them, that's a pretty good starting point.  Or if you see some injustice or brokenness and your gut is telling you, 'this makes me want to vomit', that also is the Spirit stirring something up in you.  Respond by doing something.  If God is stirring you to action, he will be the presence and the power that enables you to be the solution.  Maybe it means praying for someone to be healed (he still does that) or giving someone some food or clearing out your bank account to buy a well in Africa.  He just wants to use you to be his conduit for the Kingdom of Heaven to come to earth.

We've become much too 'careful' and 'discerning' and concerned with appearances in our culture when it comes to being the hands and feet of the Kingdom. What if we offend someone?  What if that's not a wise use of our money?  What if God doesn't come through and we make him look bad?

Really, some of us think like that, as if most of things Jesus said aren't true.  He offended lots of people for the sake of them having an opportunity to hear and see the Kingdom, so offend away. the Gospel is offensive to our sense of self-righteousness.  The Gospel that says you can't earn it and you can't pay for it is opposite to everything culture and religion tries to tell us, but it's true.

He told people to give up everything, go out without a nickel in their pocket, leave their careers as high paying tax collector and fishermen behind.  Stop worrying, he'll take care of you if he tells you to do something that looks foolish by the worlds standards

Make him look bad?  He made the universe and he's perfect, you can't make him look bad, that's just silly. His perfection and righteousness is really big, your mistakes and failures are really itty-bitty.

John 1:14 says Jesus came 'full of grace and truth."  Jesus default mode was grace (goodwill, loving-kindness, favor)  and truth (what is true in things appertaining to God and the duties of man).  He then gave his life to show what that looked like.  When he was moved with compassion, grace and truth looked like him extending the power and presence of the kingdom of heaven through acts of mercy to people who were suffering the brokenness of a broken world, people who didn't earn or deserve it, people who had no where else to turn.  The Grace and Truth of the Kingdom of Heaven was dished out in loaves and fishes, more than they could eat.  The Grace and truth of the Kingdom of Heaven was revealed with broken eyes being opened to the light.  The Grace and truth of the Kingdom of Heaven was spoken with simple world like, you're forgiven, your faith has made you well.

If you find your compassion radar is weak, take a minute to go somewhere there's a crowd.  Leave your religious hat in the drawer and listen to the Spirit.  Wait for him to show you what he showed Jesus when he looked out on the crowd.  You might find your in a place where brokenness it painfully obvious and people have missed the Grace and Truth of the the kingdom and need to know the simplicity of the good news, "God's not angry at you, Jesus came to rescue you.  Leave the mess behind and go in freedom, the truth will make you free."

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