Sermon - Compassion: Just Do It

Subject: Jesus models a life filled with compassion. Complement: The need for more people to show compassion is great. Thesis: Jesus models a life filled with compassion because he is looking for more people to show compassion and to fulfill a great need.This sermon is part of a 3-part sermon series I did for Vineyard Leadership Institute.

Compassion: Just Do It (This sermon)
http://www.brianstevenson.com/blog/sermon-compassion-just-do-it

Compassion: A Catalyst for Restoration
http://www.brianstevenson.com/blog/sermon-compassion-a-catalyst-for-rest...

Compassion: Unlocking the Power of the Kingdom
http://www.brianstevenson.com/blog/sermon-compassion-unlocking-the-power...

Subject: Jesus models a life filled with compassion.
Complement: The need for more people to show compassion is great.
Thesis: Jesus models a life filled with compassion because he is looking for more people to show compassion and to fulfill a great need.

Compassion: Just Do It
I’m going to give you a quick quiz. Don’t worry, it’s easy! I’ll give you a word and you give me the opposite. READY?
The opposite of Fast is… Slow.
The opposite of Long is… Short.
The opposite of Cold is… Hot.
The opposite of Young is… Old.
The opposite of Soft is… Hard.
The opposite of Sour is… Sweet.
The opposite of High is… Low.
The opposite of Rich is… Poor.
The opposite of Love is… Hate???

I’m not so sure about that! From my own experiences, I’m coming to realize that the greatest insult against someone is not to hate them, it’s to be apathetic.

Here’s a definition of apathy:
Not taking any interest in anything. Not bothering to do anything. It’s a lack of emotion or concern, especially when it relates to matters of general concern.

Remember back to when you were a child in school and someone from your class would pick on you? Your Mom or Dad would give you advice such as, “Just ignore them!” or “Pretend they’re not there!” or “Don’t give them any attention!” Eventually, over time, ignoring that person fixed the problem. They would find someone else to pick on; FINALLY, they were someone else’s problem!

Even though this advice can help us momentarily cope with a bad situation, it’s really just apathy in disguise. From the time of our youth, we’ve been taught to emotionally insulate ourselves. The truth is, those who intentionally hurt us are actually hurt and broken, and cannot help themselves. What they really need is more love and compassion, not apathy.

A famous American author once said, “The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity.” George Bernard Shaw

If you please, turn your Bibles to Matthew 9:35-38. In this passage, Jesus addresses the issue of apathy…

Matthew 9:35-38
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Here, Jesus perfectly modeled the solution to apathy in three steps:
1) SAW THE CROWDS
First, Jesus “saw the crowds.” He opened his eyes to what was going on around him. Jesus didn’t turn a blind eye to those who were hurting. He didn’t pretend they weren’t there. He didn’t isolate himself from the realities of our world. He made himself aware of their needs by giving them his attention.

Personal reflection:
Many years ago when I was living on OSU campus as a freshman in college, I can not express to you how many times I passed judgment on those who were begging on the streets. I’d make up little stories in my head about how they’re probably a drug addict who got themselves into their mess. When I’d see one of those beggars on my side of the street about a block away from me, I’d go out of my way to cross over to the other side of the street… just to avoid them! I couldn’t bring myself to look at them in the eye and tell them I had no change when, truthfully, I carried plenty of change. I was skeptical that any money that I did give them would go to boos, cigarettes, or some other kind of drug. I’d easily justify my actions by saying, “Why would I enable a drug addiction? They’re better off without my money.” It’s always easier just to ignore the problem.

But, Jesus doesn’t call us to do the easy thing. He calls us to get out of our comfort zone so we can LOOK directly at the brokenness of our world. He wants us to see the harassed, the helpless, the broken, and the oppressed. Jesus spent most of his time with these people, and so should we.

2) FELT COMPASSION
Second, Jesus “had compassion on them”. Jesus didn’t insulate himself from their pain and suffering. He lowered his guard and made himself emotionally vulnerable. He did NOT repress the emotions that were stirred up. The Greek origin of the word “compassion” is splangkh-nid'-zom-ahee (Splagchnizomai – Splagchnon means bowels or intestines). German Theologian, Karl Barth gives us a revealing look at to what this Greek word means:

“The term obviously defies adequate translation. What it means is that the suffering and sin and abandonment and peril of these men not merely went to the heart of Jesus, but right into His heart, into Himself, so that their whole plight was now His own, and as such He saw and suffered it far more keenly than they did. Splagchnizomai means that He took their misery upon Himself, taking it away from them and making it His own."

Feeling compassion isn’t some kind of lovey-dovey sensation or throwing a tongue-in-cheek “pity party”. Compassion goes straight into the heart and will create a gut-wrenching feeling in which we empathetically identify with the brokenness of another person. Those who choose apathy are choosing to be emotionally absent. Those who choose compassion are choosing to become emotionally vulnerable.

Have you noticed that some of the most amazing signs and wonders ever performed happened immediately after Jesus expressed emotion? Right before many of Jesus’ signs and wonders, he either: 1) wept, 2) showed anger, 3) rebuked, 4) was moved with compassion, 5) was deeply distressed, or 6) deeply sighed. Our culture has painted this picture of Jesus who was lifeless and emotionless and some kind of bearded lady. That is NOT the Jesus of the Bible!

3) TOOK ACTION
Third, Jesus “taught in their synagogues”, “preached the good news of the kingdom”, and “healed every disease and sickness”. Jesus’ compassion propelled him into ministry. His emotional investment could not allow him to neglect the harassed, the helpless, the broken, and the oppressed. Their pain became his pain, so he restored them physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Jesus raised the dead, cast out demons, brought sight to the blind, gave speech to the mute, restored hearing to the deaf, cured the leper, and healed the paralyzed. Jesus didn’t ignore the problem. Jesus took action!

Personal Reflection:
For about a year I’ve been trained to do prayer ministry. During the first 9 months, I would pass up dozens of opportunities to pray for people at the weekend services. I’d make up excuses in my mind, such as: “Oh, there’s plenty other people praying this weekend” or “I’ve had a rough week, I don’t think I can minister to others right now” or “I’m not feeling led to do it this week” or whatever else I could think up. When I dug below the surface, the thing that kept me from going up there was FEAR. I was afraid to take action on my desire to minister to others. I’d complain to God over and over for not showing me his signs and wonders when he had, in fact, patiently given me countless opportunities.

You might be saying to yourself, “No No! Brian, you don’t understand. I’m not being called to do all the crazy stuff that Jesus did in the Bible.” Don’t worry! Jesus fully understands your situation! Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Believe it or not, at this very moment, there are Christian disciples all over the world praying and interceding for you to receive a sense of calling. You have two options: 1) You can voluntarily join God’s Army, or 2) You can wait around for God to draft you. Trust me; you don’t want to be drafted. If you don’t believe me, read the book of Jonah.

CONCLUSION
We are bombarded with messages today that pull us out of arms of love and compassion of Jesus Christ and push us deeper into the jaws of apathy. Attitudes such as “whatever” and “who cares” and “so what” dominate our thoughts. This apathetic attitude blinds us from seeing the harassed, the helpless, the broken, and the oppressed. It emotionally insulates us ourselves from feeling the pain of others. It paralyzes body of Christ. In Revelation, Jesus Christ says to church of Laodicia, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” Simply put: APATHY IS DISGUSTING.

Jesus gave us a simple model to help fight against the temptation of apathy: 1) He opened his eyes to the people around him. He didn’t cross over to the other side of the street when he saw someone in need. He didn’t pretend to look away to avoid an uncomfortable conversation. He confronted the harsh realities of life head on. 2) He shared in their pain with a gut-wrenching sympathy. He gave himself permission to become emotionally vulnerable. He didn’t subscribe to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Their pain became his pain. 3) He took action. He didn’t say, “That’s not MY problem” and pass it to someone else. Jesus wasn’t the benchwarmer. He wasn’t cheering from the stands. He was out there in full uniform, in the field, playing hard, staying focused, getting bruised, and ultimately defeating the opposing team.

Jesus probably wore Nike sandals because his actions clearly spoke these three words, “Just do it.” The love and compassion of Jesus Christ WILL turn the world upside down. Now is the time to be obedient to God’s prompting. No more excuses! No more coasting! It’s time to take action! Compassion: Just do it.

[tags]Sermon, Thesis, Compassion, Splagchnizomai, Apathy, Matthew 9:35-38, VLI, Vineyard, George Bernard Shaw, Karl Barth[/tags]

Comments

[...] This is a re-hash of a

[...] This is a re-hash of a sermon called Compassion: Just Do It that I wrote for Vineyard Leadership Institute. It’s the same scripture passage, but I changed the thesis (the point I would drive home). I used slightly different illustrations. This was also presented in a home group setting, so it has conversational elements built-in. It could easily be adapted for a full-blown sermon. [...]