A destitute woman. A sick and desperate mother. A prodigal son; these were the kind of people Jesus exercised continual compassion toward. After demonstrating his great compassion in every synagogue and village of Israel, Jesus did something else. He made it clear that he was calling His followers to live with this same compassion, bringing wholeness to every community in the world.
The biblical word compassion describes more than emotion. It describes a motivation that cannot rest until the pain is relieved. It is undoubtedly what drove Jesus to restore the Samaritan woman when His body was crying out for rest. It’s what motivated Jesus to fight a treacherous storm to deliver a severely oppressed man.
How much compassion is your church releasing within your community? I would encourage you to ask yourself that question, and some of your best leaders as well. Then, together ask God for a plan that will unleash more life-giving compassion in your community!
Several years ago, I was reading Acts 3 and 4, and became deeply impressed that our church needed to become more compassionate. And it still does! I saw how Peter and John released healing into a lame man, who begged at the temple gate his entire life. Afterward, the community was filled with joy and the church grew to five times its former size!
The Holy Spirit helped me see that, our church could have more favor in our community and succeed more in His mission, if we were more compassionate! At the time, we saw ourselves as more of a teaching center where occasionally the Holy Spirit performed miracles among us. Certainly those things are both biblical and essential. But we discovered that we were also called to heal people by exercising a greater degree of His compassion.
Everyone was excited as our leaders shared our new call to compassion. Ideas were exchanged that empowered us to be more compassionate without spending extra time or money. We could serve visitors with more excellence. We could minister to the next generation with more purpose. We could design services with more creativity to communicate more clearly how God heals. We could build a reputation among hurting people helping them realize our church existed for them and not just for us!
John Wesley called this the restoration of apostolic confidence. He said that apostolic confidence is rooted in who the church is and what we know about bringing healing to humanity. He wrote that this confidence is the beginning of an effective movement for God in any community.
The apostle Paul definitely agreed. He wrote in I Corinthians 13 that he could speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but without love, he was nothing more than a source of irritation to people. He learned that he could possess unfathomable wisdom and faith that moved mountains, but without love, be nothing. He could give all he possessed to the poor and surrender his body to the flames, but gain nothing without love.
Simply put, love is the bottom line in people’s hearts. People respond to what we do if they are inspired by why we do it. That’s what many churches I am in fellowship with are learning. Some friends and I started doing backpack outreaches so kids in our community had what they needed to excel in school. Amazingly within two years, our community gave all the resources needed, unsolicited. And the next year retailers offered these kids supplies for the entire school year.
A few years ago, I read where the Marine Toys for Tots program in our town was shutting down due to a lack of volunteers. So we let His compassion move us. We set out to provide a Christmas present to every child living under the poverty level. And this last year over $100,000 was given by our community and we had the joy of seeing two thousand needy children receive Christmas gifts.
We as a church have learned an important lesson. His compassion not only multiplies our favor in our community, it motivates hearts to come into our fellowship and experience His healing presence!