Text: Mark 2:1-12
Today I want to look at the final pillar of the church, that is compassion. This is a function of the church that some people do very well, but unfortunately so often we fail dismally, because compassion costs us. Compassion means that we have to go out of our way, Compassion makes us tired.
Social concern is a more defined way of describing compassion. Compassion is observing and seeking to meet the felt needs of the community. It is important that the church understands its role of bringing the love and comfort of the message of Jesus to those who are hurting, whether they are believers or not. Jesus set the example of caring for the sick and needy of society, we too need to continue with this ministry. James 2:18
Social concern must also include standing against injustice even if it is not popular in modern society. The church needs to be the leader in community service as a key function of the church. We cannot stand idly by and pretend that we did not know, because we do know and we must get involved.
In Mark chapter 2 we read the Jesus looked at the man and declared that his sins were forgiven.
Jesus was looking beyond his physical and temporal condition and knew that he had an eternal need, the same need all of humanity has, the problem of sin. As we read later in the account in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus goes on to heal the man completely and he walks home. But before Jesus healed the man, he spoke peace into his heart, he forgave his sins. Forgiveness is the greatest miracle that Jesus ever performs, it meets the greatest need of man and it cost the greatest price.
Jesus was full of compassion as we read this throughout the Gospels. However the primary focus of Jesus’ ministry was to save those who were condemned to an eternity in Hell (Luke 19:10). Jesus expects his church to follow his example and to have the same priority.
During this post-modern age, with the advent of 24 hour news and the internet, the plight of the poor and hurting is much more visible. There has arisen a division in the greater body of Christ There are those who say that we need to do everything we can to demonstrate the Gospel and help the poor and hurting in the world, these people are identified with the social gospel. Then there are those who say that it is most important to preach the Gospel, and that the social programs are taking away our focus from the real task of reaching the lost.
We need to strike a balance between these two extremes. We cannot overlook the social justice issues of our day and age, but we also need to understand that if we help people without giving them the life saving message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they are still destined for an eternity in hell.
“Meeting felt needs is important, but it must lead to meeting the eternal need”
There is a popular saying that that is often repeated these days on facebook, twitter, and from our pulpits. It has been attributed to St Francis of Assisi ; “preach the Gospel and if necessary use words” I can see why people are drawn to this way of thinking, however there are two basic problems with this quote; firstly there is not proof that Francis ever said it, and secondly it simply is not biblical. (See Romans 10:13-14)
Let us never be guilty of assuming that people will get to heaven because they have been helped by a well meaning person. Please, let us make sure we help as much as we can, but at the same time lead them to Jesus. In the midst of the darkest places and times in human history, is when people are the most open to the saving message of Jesus. Let us not miss that open door.
So as we have been looking at the church over the last 5 weeks. This picture has developed. As you can see the image is a portrayal of what looks like smoke of different colors – this is intended to represent the aroma that the church presents to the world and to God. Is our worship a pleasing sacrifice to him? Is our edification, evangelism and compassion a pleasing aroma to the world around us? Paul writing to the Corinthian church states in 2 Corinthians 2:15 states ”Forwe are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing”;
The church does not exist for itself; it exists to bring others to a commitment to Jesus Christ.