When God appeared to Moses on Mount Sinai, he passed before him and proclaimed his name (Ex. 34:5-7). What was the first word God used to describe himself? Compassion. Indeed, this quality is at the very center of his nature. As Marvin Olasky reminds us in The Tragedy of American Compassion, compassion literally means suffering (passion) with (com). Philippians 2 gives witness to God’s compassion in Christ, who leaves his heavenly throne to come down to earth to suffer together with poor, broken people–even to the point of death on a cross.
It is no surprise then, that God calls his chosen people Israel to reflect this same compassion before the watching eyes of the world.
“If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs” (Deut. 15:7-9).
It is also no surprise that his anger is kindled when his people are hard-hearted and unconcerned.
“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen” (Ez. 16:49-50).
Overfed and unconcerned. Americans should tremble at God’s fierce anger against such people. Lord, have mercy!
Jesus incarnated God’s compassion. We see it in his dealings with the poor, the diseased, and the broken. The coming of his Kingdom is “good news to the poor” (Lu. 4:18) and his judgement rests with those who fail to practice compassion (Mt. 25:41-45). In the Great Commission, Christ commands the church to “obey all that I commanded” including his command to “go and do likewise” following the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:36-37). As the church, we glorify God most powerfully when our antenna is up for the broken, powerless, and voiceless people on the margins of society, and we go to them in the love and power of the Holy Spirit and “suffer with them.” This is God’s “Samaritan Strategy” for Kingdom advancement.
Ask yourself: Who are the broken, powerless people who live in obscurity in my neighborhood, in my community–maybe even in my family? A friend recently shared a short film that does a powerful job of bringing these people out of the darkness and before our attention.
When you see them, don’t pass by on the other side. Stop. Look. Act compassionately. Make a plan to demonstrate Christ-like love in a practical way. It doesn’t need to be a complicated endeavor. Need some help? Here’s a wonderful tool developed by our good friend Bob Moffitt called Seed Projects. Why don’t you download the guidelines and do a Seed Project with your family or small group? Let us know how it goes. We’d love to hear!