God Prescribes Compassion

I believe Jesus was always a crowd favorite at parties. Not just because He could turn water into wine. Though that would be a great benefit of any party guest. I believe He was great at parties, because Jesus generally loved people.

He was also dangerous. He would call you out if you showed favoritism to the haves over the have nots or if you judged someone for expressing their love for God in an extravagant way.

Jesus knew how to party. He knew how to celebrate! 

If you have read any of my other blogs, you will know that I believe following Jesus is all about relationships and not following religious rules. We were created to worship. When we come together to worship as a family, it is a celebration. It is a celebration of relationships. Our relationship with God and our relationship with one another. Jesus understood that. Jesus knew how to party. He knew how to celebrate!

Here are three things I have learned about Celebration:

#1 Celebration is natural. We were created to worship. When we are cheering our favorite team to victory or rocking around the Christmas tree, we are celebrating relationships. And believe it or not, that is more like worship than many of our church services. We need to let go and be more excited about God, our salvation, God’s kingdom work in our community and around the world. Even our funeral services should be more celebratory (I understand tragedies; I have lead funeral services in horrible circumstances and the families and I have found ways to celebrate God, the deceased, and life).

After King Saul and the Israelites won their first battle the Bible says, “Saul and all Israel celebrated magnificently” (1 Samuel 11:15c). And after Queen Esther and the Israelites turned their mourning to joy in a victory over Haman and his treacherous plans, they instituted the feast of Purim where they gave gifts of food to one another and gifts to the poor (see Esther 9:22).

Our celebration should be joyous and we should pull out the stops!

#2 Celebration has been polluted by our sinful nature. Let’s face it, worship and celebration are community experiences with a personal expression. But we have made it increasingly about “me.” We are so focused on ourselves, we miss the value and importance of community. This leads to over indulgences. Our celebrations become opportunities for materialism, gluttony and drunkenness. Except when we celebrate God, then we get real cheap and excuse it by saying it is “bad stewardship” to be extravagant.

#3 God prescribes compassion to realign our focus. Going back to Esther 9, we noticed that the celebration of the feast of Purim included giving gifts to the poor. In Matthew 25, Jesus explains to His followers that He is pleased with them because when He was hungry they fed Him. When He was thirsty they gave Him something to drink. When He was a stranger, they let Him in. When He needed clothes, they clothed Him. When He was sick, they looked after Him. When He was in prison, they visited Him. His followers didn’t understand. They asked Him when they had done these things. He answered, “Whatever you have done to the least of these, you have done unto Me.”

As I have studied the Bible, I see there are four marks that following Jesus leaves on your life:

  1. Out Reach – when we have experienced God’s love, we cannot keep it to our selves. We have to share it with others.
  2. In Reach – loving one another is what a family does naturally. And Jesus said that others will know we are His followers by the way we love one another!
  3. Up Reach – a deep and abiding relationship with God through Jesus. While it is personal yes, we also have a relationship with Him as a community of believers.
  4. Down Reach – showing compassion for those in danger of having the darkness swallow their hope! These are the people who need the tangible love of God for their faith to grow.

Compassion is using our voice to speak for the least of these. Compassion is also speaking the love of God to them.

Here is an incomplete list of people God gives special attention to in the Bible: Widows, Orphans, the Poor, the Sick, and the Imprisoned.

Why does God give them special attention? They have no voice. In scripture it is clear words have power. God spoke the world into existence. Jesus is the Word. Faith comes by hearing the word of God.

Compassion is using our voice to speak for the least of these. Compassion is also speaking the love of God to them.

This past week I was in Wisconsin at my nephew’s wedding reception, when I got a text from a young man I hadn’t seen in about a year. He was homeless, depressed and I believe suicidal. He wanted a ride to the local hospital so he could check himself into the behavioral health ward. I wanted to ignore him. But God taught me two things: First, I evidently still have a part in this young man’s story. And second, I need to be sacrificially available to God at all times.

I am a chaplain for the local police department, so I called the dispatch. He happened to be in a neighboring town, so our dispatch got in touch with the department in that town. Within minutes I had a call from them and shortly after, I got a text from the young man from the ambo, “Thank you, I am on my way to the hospital.”

Who needs compassion in your life this week? You may already know. If not, let me encourage you to let God know you are available, keep your eyes open, then be ready to give compassion!

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