Friday, August 28, 2015

Moved by Compassion

I never thought I would write a post that has anything to do with "politics" or our world's current events.  Not because they're not important...I simply don't feel qualified, and all of the hubbub stresses me out!

But how can we, as Christians, claim to be living as God wants us to, without concern for the broken world we live in?  And not just concern that makes us feel sympathy or righteous anger when we hear of another injustice...but concern that moves us to action.

I was convicted of this as I read in the book of Jeremiah this morning.  Now, my personality is much more comfortable with mercy than justice, so the first, ooooh, 28 chapters of this book have not been what I would call enjoyable. 

You see, the first part of Jeremiah is talking about the Israelites--God's chosen people--and how they constantly turn to other gods, and God has about had it.  Exile, death, and despair are on their way.  Sure, they deserve it.  Yes, God is God and what He says goes. But it still makes me uncomfortable.  I have to wrestle through content like this.

Yet I kept reading because I wanted to get the whole picture. 

And this morning, I saw God's justice and mercy collide.  And it all makes a little more sense. 

First, we must not forget that God has been patiently, lovingly sending them prophet after prophet to warn them of the coming destruction if they do not turn back to Him.  But they don't.  God has been begging them--for years!--to repent and be saved.  But they haven't.  (This is where the "they deserve it" comment really comes into focus.)  How often this is us. 

Then today's reminder:
"'Is not Ephraim my dear son,
the child in whom I delight?
Though I often speak against him,
I still remember him.
Therefore my heart yearns for him;
I have great compassion for him,'
declares the Lord."

Woah.  God is delighting over a "dear" son who has lived in years of greatest rebellion.  That's love.  Of course our holy, perfect God has been speaking against them.  They're a wicked mess.  But in His talk against them, His heart is not hardened towards them.  No, instead, God's heart breaks over their condition.  He longs to have them back, living as He always intended. 

I have to think about where I fall in all of this.  First, am I walking as one of God's children, or am I one stuck in rebellion?  Second, if I am walking with God, does my heart break for the lost? 

Do I reject and scorn the lost, or does my heart yearn for them?
Am I moved to bitterness, resentment, disgust, or superiority because lost people are living like lost people? Or do I have compassion because the lost are lost? 

Compassion leads to action.  We must get our hands dirty so that hearts may be made clean.  This does not mean living in sin to "identify" with people.  It means walking into the desert, having real conversation, making real relationships, offering time and resources, loving despite rejection, and pointing people to the life-giving water that is Jesus.  We do not save them, but we introduce them to, and reflect, the One who can. 

I, personally, have failed to do this.  We, as a church, have failed to do this. 

I don't recall reading about Jesus sitting and complaining with His followers about the state their world was in.  Last I checked, He acted.  He ate with sinners.  He offered hope to prostitutes.  He welcomed children.  He set examples among His followers by washing their dirty, tired feet.  He taught.  He healed.  He prayed. 

It's time we stop singing about Jesus without acting like Him.  We must be in close relationship with our Father, and from that, in whatever act we are called to, we must step out in obedience. 

Our broken world will not be instantly fixed.  But heaven rejoices over the salvation of just one lost soul, the return of just one wandering brother.  May our hearts be moved to compassion.  May our compassion always lead to action.