Compassion is what we are called to as a church. It is a mark of the Body of Christ, to be outward focused looking to help those in need. But why do we act in compassion? You may say that it’s the right thing to do, but the reality is that by doing kind things and acting compassionately, does not earn salvation. We know that the Bible says in Isaiah 64 that our righteous acts are like filthy rags. You cannot secure eternal life by doing good things for people, so why do we care? Why do we show compassion to the poor and the hurting?
The Bible has a lot to say to us about compassion. The Children of Israel were instructed in the Law of Moses in Deuteronomy 15 to be openhanded in caring for the poor and the needy. Jesus in his time here on earth was moved with compassion and healed many people.
One of the most outstanding portions of Scripture relating to compassion, is found in Isaiah 58.
The bible is full of conditional statements, if-then statements. If we are obedient to God, then there is a promise from Him. If you include the first line of verse 6, we have 3 “IF” statements and 3 “THEN” statements.
God’s people are chosen to “loose the chains of injustice,” and to, “Untie the chords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free” The children of Israel knew slavery, they would have remembered that they were once slaves at the hands of the Egyptians. Now they were living in the promised land and they had taken the people of the land and turned them into their slaves. Today slavery is all around us, moral injustice, oppression, sex-trafficking, and the ultimate injustice, the killing of the unborn.
Not only are we to speak up and act against injustice, but as verse 7 continues, we are to be generous in our compassion. “Share your food”, Provide shelter, Clothe the naked.”
Compassion involves giving; giving of our time and money and energy.
In verse 8 we see the first “Then” statement, a beautiful word picture of the ending of the night, a new day, new blessings. The second line of verse 8 says; “your healing will quickly appear.” Some people ask why we don’t we see healing today. The truth is that healing takes place all over the world, as God’s people pray. Sometimes we don’t see healing because we are too inward focused. God looks to see the motives of our heart, as we give of ourselves to others we will see healing taking place.
The next line reads; “your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard”. Again this is a beautiful word picture that the children of Israel would have understood as being a reference to the pillar of cloud and fire that moved to the back of Israel to protect them against the attacking Egyptians in the Exodus. What a promise! If you are doing what God has called you to, he will protect you and be your rear guard.
Moving to verse 9, we see the second “Then” promise; “Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.”
God looks at the heart, if we pray with the right motives God moves on our behalf. (see James 4:3)
Looking further we have two “if” statements – the first is inward focused; “do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,” Gossip and pointing fingers are malicious and are rooted in pride. (See Matthew 7).
The second IF statement reads; “If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed.” Instead of focusing on my little world, what about spending myself for the hungry and the oppressed.
Then what follows are the wonderful blessings in verses 10-12.
As a church that is going through a revitalization, we are seeing God answer our prayers and I believe if we keep our focus on the world around us and not on our own desires, these promises are for us.
In fact, these 6 verses are the prescription for church revitalization.
If we do what God calls us to do, he will ensure that we will stay strong. One of the promises I always cling to is at the end of verse 11; “You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” If we as a church continue to seek the Lord and do what he has called us to do, he will always provide for our needs.
As we look at compassion it is easy to care for someone when we can see they are oppressed and maybe in bondage because they were victims of abuse. But what about the unlovely? What about the drug addict who keeps making the same mistake? Do we pick and choose who to help? We need to learn how to act in obedience to God, daily ask God to give us wisdom and discernment to be doing His will on the earth.
The ultimate purpose of compassion is leading people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Point them to Jesus using words, otherwise we are simply alleviating a temporary need. True compassion is caring for someone’s eternal destination. Do you see the poor and the needy as someone Jesus died for?
The Gospel message is the ultimate display of compassion, John 3:16, For God so loved…..that He gave” Jesus gave up his position of glory in heaven so that you and I might have eternal life. Jesus set aside his glory in heaven, but sometimes we find it difficult to set aside the remote control to help someone he died for.
How will we respond today? Let us be a people of compassion, in order to see the lost saved, the church revived and our lives blessed.