Saturday, November 20, 2010

What Would Jesus Do? Part 4 [Compassion]

There is a video on that has made it’s way around the internet , entitled Get Service.  It portrays a young man as he prepares to go about his daily routine, except that it seems that everyone who crosses his path is out to inconvenience him or otherwise delay his progress.  That is until a mysterious gent gives him a pair of glasses that enable him to peer into the lives of the people that he comes into contact with.  Needless to say, it changes his perspective in short order.  Go see it!  It’s worth the four minutes or so of viewing time.

Compassion is not an attribute that we normally associate with masculinity in today's culture. Satan's counterfeit,  machismo, wars against this Godly characteristic, and all to often wins out. This is based in selfishness, or  a self-seeking mentality.  Machismo dictates that one look out for himself with total disregard to the comfort or well-being of others.

We have an example to follow by which we can gauge true manliness, Jesus Christ.  Often we ask, or are asked, “What would Jesus do?”.  As we have noted in previous posts, this is a topic that can cover a lot of ground, so let's look at this often misunderstood characteristic, one that the Master expects us to emulate Him in.

His Compassion was universal

And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. (Mat 9:35-36 KJV)

Jesus saw the people just as they were, confused, hurting, and wayward.  That sounds like so much of society today.  They were the guy that cut you off in traffic, or the one that was rude to you at Walmart.  They were the ones obstinate and obtuse by choice or ignorance;  In short, they were people behaving in much the same ways as they have in any generation.

But rather than act out with disdain or dismissiveness, He was moved with, or driven by compassion.  Are we driven enough by compassion? If not, then we have work to do.  It is the way He was.  I want to be this way.  It is what I long for Him to change in my heart.

He had compassion on ALL of them.  He saw people as unique individuals, every one precious in His eyes.  Much like the fellow wearing the glasses in the video, I believe Jesus could discern their individual trials.  He did not view them as the masses, He cared very much for each and every one of them.

How often do we view people as objects or obstacles?  Annoyances?  A necessary evil?  I dare say we do it (to our shame) far more than we would be comfortable admitting.  But that was not the way of the Master.

He made no distinction between those 'worthy' or 'unworthy', rich or poor, clean or dirty.  He simply wasn’t interested in class struggles.  He would have given no favoritism to the guy carrying the cardboard sign saying ‘will work for food’, or the one driving the BMW past him.

You get the picture...

His compassion brought healing

When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities. And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick. (Mat 14:13-14 KJV)

Here, Jesus had taken leave of the people to pray, yet they followed Him, in order to hear His teaching, and to be touched by Him.  They had interrupted His purpose in praying and rejuvenating His own Spirit.  He immediately changed His plans, due to His great compassion and ministered to them.

What do we display to people in need when they interrupt what we are doing?  Even when we are doing something spiritual?  Even when we are attempting to tend to our own spiritual needs?  Compassion? Or contempt?

Are we following in the Master's footsteps?

Christ like compassion heals physical needs, spiritual needs, as well as emotional needs.  It also addresses social needs:

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Heb 10:25 KJV)

I believe Jesus was a people person.  He was willing to engage people when at their lowest points in life.  I believe he still is, and is our supreme example.

Compassion compelled Him to heal the sick.  He healed them ALL:

How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. (Act 10:38 KJV)

See also: Matt 4:24, Matt 8:16, Luke 4:40

His compassion brought vision

So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him. (Mat 20:34 KJV)

Compassion compelled Him to do the impossible.  Modern science can restore blindness, but it is a very expensive and risky procedure.  The results cannot be guaranteed, many times surgical attempts fail.  But Jesus restored sight to all the blind that He ministered to.  This is exceptional, a 100% recovery rate.  Medical science can only envy that statistic from afar.

How often are we driven to do the impossible, or even the difficult but possible?  The inconvenient?  The easy?

Why are signs not following those that believe? (Mark 16:17)  Are we believers?  Are we moved by compassion?  These are sobering questions that seem to raise the bar ever higher.  Still, we are to strive to go higher and higher.

Compassion drove His desire to heal

And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. (Mar 1:41 KJV)

Perhaps one of Jesus' most poignant statements was, “I will”.  In a more modern paraphrase, He might have put it this way:   “I am willing”, or “It is My will”, or “That's what I want for you”.  In those times, the leper was a pariah, shunned by all, often forced to live in camps removed from populated areas.  Jesus had no tolerance for leprosy either, but he had compassion for the victims.  Rather than shun them, He healed them.

Do we really believe that healing is His will for today?  If His compassion was universal then, it still is today.  Perhaps if we did not struggle so mightily in believing that for ourselves, we would be more driven to minister to others...

He was willing to heal.  He still is... through us

He desired to heal.  He still does... through us

It was His passion.  It should be ours

It was His mission.  It is ours too:

Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. (John 20:21 KJV)

His compassion brought comfort

Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. (Luk 7:12-14 KJV)

He comforted those in sorrow.  He did not offer pep talks, or false Cheer.  No empty cliche's, or awkward platitudes.  He brought only Truth, and He brought life.  Do we bring life into situations?  Do we speak life to people, or do we tend to speak destruction?  Yet more sobering questions…

His compassion was un-biased

But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, (Luke 10:33 KJV)

The back-story here is Jesus’ famous parable of the Good Samaritan.  I believe it is no accident that Jesus used a Samaritan as the central figure in this illustration.  His critics had often referred to Him in an uncharitable fashion, as a Samaritan.  He had, after all, been raised in Nazareth, and based His ministry in Capernaum of Galilee.  Jews in those days did not view Samaritans with the milk of human kindness.  Racial prejudice is no new thing in human history, and was alive and operational in Jesus’ time.  Yet it was one of these ‘dogs’ that ministered healing to a Jewish man whilst others ‘of his kind’ shunned him.

Jesus was unconcerned with racial boundaries.  He touched those in need, often breaching social taboos.

In the story, this outland benefactor gave of Himself, not only financially, but of His time and talent.  He became personally involved despite the fact that He didn't have to.  He embraced the victim of a horrible crime, administered first aid, using his own supplies.  He transported his charge at his own expense, on his own animal, to an inn.  There, he paid from his own purse for the man’s lodging.

He committed Himself to someone else's future.  He promised the innkeeper to return after a time, and check on the man.  If there was more time required, he vowed to pay more, whatever it took to see the man restored.

No wonder this parable has touched such a chord among so many throughout the generations.  Many, many people know little to nothing about the life of Jesus, yet know something of the parable of the Good Samaritan.  There must be a reason why so many hospitals are named for this ageless example of Christ-like compassion.

As I wrap up this rather lengthy post, I would like to conclude by referring you to yet another blog post.  This is written by a very talented and insightful young lady in my church.  It is called The Kingdom Journal, and in it she sums up rather eloquently all the things that God has been placing in my heart as I prepared this installment of The Berean Report.

I hope you will read it, as well as join me again for the next post.

And remember, keep on asking yourself, “What would Jesus do?”.

Friday, November 5, 2010

What Would Jesus Do? Part 3

What DID Jesus do?

Well, there is the thirty-four dollar question.  The Bible has much to say about what He did, what He said, how He acted, who He was.  It’s amazing to me how many different ideas there are out there about who Jesus is and what He did.  Actually the entirety of the Bible is about Him.  The Old Testament foretells of Him, the New Testament gives an account of His life on Earth, as well as expounds His teachings.  It also tells of Jesus in an aspect not seen in His previous advent.  This is a very deep well to plumb and would be well beyond the scope of this blog to simply sum up the life and nature of The Master.

Yet, there are all the things we have come to know and love about Him.  Chief among them was His heroic sacrifice of atonement for our sins.  There are also the accounts of His compassion on the masses, healing, delivering from demonic oppression, even feeding them.  He is our Savior, our elder Brother, our friend, our Kinsman Redeemer, our Avenger of Blood.

The Witnesses

The best way to get to know someone whom you have never met eyeball to eyeball, is to investigate accounts of those who actually did spend time in His company.  In our New Testament, we have four: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  According to Old Testament law, truth is established in at least two witnesses.  We have twice as many as is required.  We might consider a fifth if we include the Apostle Paul, although his witness of Jesus is primarily post-conversion.

Matthew was also known as Levi, a tax collector.  Likely not a very well liked guy, yet the Master chose him as a disciple.  It is thought that his account is more than likely the most verbatim of the Gospels, due to his training in clerical skills.  He knew shorthand and could take dictation very rapidly.  He was very Jewish, and as such his account majored on Jesus’ lineage and His right to rule.  He also majored on the Messianic prophecies that Jesus fulfilled.

Mark, also called John Mark was among the disciples, though he is not recorded until the book of Acts as a travelling companion to Paul and Barnabas.  He is believed to have penned the Apostle Peter’s account of the Gospel.  It is a book that is bold and to the point, much like we see Peter portrayed elsewhere in scripture.

Not much is known of Luke, other than he was among those who traveled with Jesus.  He wrote his own account of the life and times of our Lord, then wrote a history of the early Church, in the Acts Of The Apostles.  He was a physician, and as such had care and compassion for the suffering.  He recorded the kind, compassion aspects of Jesus, portraying Him as the Son of man.

John’s portrait of Christ is bold, declaring Him as the very Word of God.  This vignette shows Jesus in all His glory and power as He ministered on the Earth.  Yet, love is a very strong theme of this writing.  John also wrote three epistles (letters), and the Apocalypse, or Revelation.  We will examine this in more depth in another post.

These all recorded the life and ministry of Jesus, by divine inspiration.  But they also had their own unique perspectives.  Many of the specifics are recorded by at least three of the Gospels.  It would be a good idea to do a comparative study of them.  Alternatively, one could find a good outline harmony of the Gospels and attempt to read them in chronological order.  At any rate, the gospels, along with the book of Acts should be studied as a whole in order to get to the depths we are attempting to plumb.

What He Did

This can be best summed up in the following passage:

How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. (Act 10:38 KJV)

  • He was anointed of the Holy Ghost. (This was before Acts Chapter 2)
  • He was anointed with power
  • He went about (He was pro-active)
  • He did good
  • He healed ALL (Not just those who were ‘deserving’ or who He ‘chose’ to. ALL)
  • He freed the people from demonic possession, oppression, and bondage.

Aside from his mission to redeem mankind from sin, this was His principal mission.  This is a pretty good template to follow for those who would Do What Jesus Did.

The Myths

Time to kick over some sacred cows. 

There are a lot of misconceptions out and about concerning the personage of Jesus.  There is one sect that calls itself Christian, yet relegates Him to the ranks of angels, denying His Godhood.  This very seriously breaches many passages of scripture that clearly place Him in the Godhead.  Don’t be fooled by these pseudo-Christian doctrines.  The Bible calls them doctrines of devils.

Astoundingly, many of the world’s major religions venerate Jesus, but only as a very wise man, or a great prophet.  He was both of these things, yet He was more.  A wise sage, or a great oracle cannot atone for the sins of the world.  He did so, and arose having defeated even death itself.  He ascended into Heaven and is still alive to this day, sitting in the council of God Himself!

There are some who espouse the ideology that Jesus came preaching ‘love and acceptance’.  Generally speaking, it has been my experience that this is the mantra of someone who is trying very hard to rationalize poor and irresponsible (anti-scriptural) behavior.  While Jesus is the embodiment of love, and his invitation to salvation is universal,  The subject of most of His messages were about neither.  Upon closer examination of the Witnesses, you will discover that He preached primarily of the Kingdom Of God.  This is another huge subject to tackle, and may be the subject of another blog series.  But the main point of all this, is that He laid out principles in all of His teachings of how we as disciples are to behave within the Kingdom.  He offered grace, but not the greasy-grace that seems to be associated with the aforementioned statement.

He spoke the truth, in love. (Eph 4:15)  Many received His teachings with gladness of heart.  Others chafed at His words.  Yet the message remained the same.  He was not ‘seeker-sensitive’.  He loved the people far too much to teach them half truths.  Many of the religious ruling class were offended at His words, but some of them, after reconsideration came to Him.  He received them, but His was not a message of compromise.

Our Example

He is the model of what we are to aspire to.  Some might find this a bit too lofty a goal, or may even be a bit put off that we should actually emulate Him.  But this is what He requires of us:

It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord.  (Mat 10:25a KJV)

And this:

Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. (John 20:21 KJV)

In light of this, WWJD takes on a far bigger aspect than the fad that came around in the ‘90’s.  It becomes a golden standard to live by.  It also places the responsibility squarely upon our shoulders to find out what He is all about and behave accordingly.  It’s a sobering thought.  How are we measuring up?  Need some work?  It can seem a daunting task, but He would never require it of us if it were not attainable. 

Let’s all make this our life’s mission, shall we? To be more like Him.