Welcome to Christ’s Community Church. I am so glad that you’re here with us for Compassion Sunday. Over the past month, we’ve been discussing what the essentials of Christianity really are. If you were with us for the Worshiper series you remember that Jesus was asked this question in Mark 12:28-31, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" And Jesus replies giving us his perspective on what the core of Christianity is in verse 29. "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Really nothing new or earth shattering, because he was just quoting from Deuteronomy 6:4, but he doesn’t stop there, he continues quoting Leviticus 19:18. He’s asked for a one commandment but he gives us two and provides for us what we could consider the essence of true Christianity and that is love. Love for God and love for our neighbor.
So as we’ve been considering these essentials and what they mean for us as followers of Christ we’ve discovered that to love others is really to understand and live out our lives reflecting the compassion and the love of God to others. Jesus summarized that in these two commandments which really call us as disciples and followers of Christ to care for others who are in need. Last week we talked about needy people and how to better meet those needs and one person said to me later, “I’m not sure that I really care that much. I don’t think I really have the heart of Jesus for all people.” And I think that if we were really honest with ourselves we’d have to admit that we don’t really care about others that much. Last Wednesday night we watched a video and talked about what’s so resistible about the church. You know why doesn’t everybody in Emmitsburg go to church? And the reality is that a lot of people think that our faith isn’t genuine, that we don’t really love others, and we simply don’t care.
In fact, there’s a verse found in Philippians 2:20-21 that’s a little startling, if not shocking, where the apostle Paul says, speaking of a young pastor in the church named Timothy, “I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” And I think that really describes where a lot of us are today. I know speaking for myself that that reflects who I truly am. It’s something I’ve been working on for years and I hope I’m getting better at it, because usually my first concern is to look out to my own interest. You know, what is in it for me? What’s it going to cost me? And how is it going to benefit me? And so the apostle says, “You know what? I don’t have anybody, but Timothy who takes a genuine interest in your welfare.” And then he says, “All of the rest of them are looking out for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ.” That’s a sad statement of the spiritual condition of the church, because we have discovered that to claim to be a follower of Christ, to say that you love God, that you care, and yet not to act with compassion is not to care at all. Because care for others is more than just a feeling, it’s an action. True compassion demands action.
Last week in Matthew chapter 9, verse 36, we talked about compassion and how it’s such a rich word. A sympathy that comes from deep within the bowels or from the pit of your stomach. And so it means to ache so much on the inside that you’re moved to action. True Christ-like compassion is this inward aching for someone who’s in need that moves us, drives us, compels us, prompting us into action. For that matter, in the gospel, every time it tells us that Jesus was feeling compassion, his feeling was immediately followed by an action. In fact, let me give you three quick examples.
Reading from Matthew 14:14, it says that “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and” What? He, “Healed their sick.” He acted. Jesus felt this compassion deep inside and he acted on it.
Again in Matthew 20:34, it says Jesus was with some blind guys and “(He) had compassion on them” and so what did he do? He acted on that feeling “and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.”
In Mark 6:33-34, Jesus and his disciples got into a boat to cross the lake, “But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So” what did he do? He felt so deeply that he had to act and “He began teaching them many things.”
You see, compassion results in action, and so to say that we care but not to act is really not to care at all. The Bible speaks of this in James 2:26 saying, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” And I’m just going to be really honest with you, this is something that I’ve struggled with for years, something that I’m working on, because in the past the further I drifted away from Christ the less I cared about what mattered to him and the more I became concerned with myself. On the other hand, here’s the reality I face daily, the closer I get to Christ through fasting and prayer and through worship and study of the Word, the more I seek him, the more I care for the things that he cares for. So I want to share this message born out of my own carnal uncaring spirit as we look at the story of the Good Samaritan.
Reading from Luke 10:25-28, “On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" He answered: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."
So this guy says, “Okay, but which neighbor are you talking about? Are you talking about my next-door neighbor? The guy in the cubicle next to me at work? Which neighbor you talking about? And the Bible says in Luke 10:29-30, “He wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers.” Now let me just clarify this for you, setting the context, because we really don’t know that road. This road from Jerusalem to Jericho was nothing more than a narrow, twisting, turning path about 17 miles long with cliffs and caves on either side. So this road was winding, mountainous, and extremely dangerous because it was very well known that robbers would hide along the way and wait for travelers. And that’s exactly what happened. This man was traveling down the road “when he fell into the hands of robbers.”
Continuing in verse 30, “They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.” So these guys jump out, they beat the tar out of this guy, they take everything that he has, and leave him bleeding and unconscious on the side of the road. He’s half dead, but the good news is that verse 31 tells us, “A priest happened to be going down the same road, and” well maybe it’s not that good of news, should of been good news, but “when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.” It’s like, Pastor John happened to be going down the same road driving home from work and when he saw the man he just kept on driving. You know, maybe he was late, maybe he just didn’t want to get involved, maybe he was scared and thought it was a trap. You can probably imagine the conversation going through his mind, much like many of us have had when we passed by that stranded motorist on the side of the road.
Well check this out, verse 32 continues, “So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.” And so here’s another religious guy who comes along, came to that place and upon seeing him passes by on the other side. He kept on driving and here’s the bottom line, you’ll always have an excuse to justify not getting involved. As a matter of fact, you might as well prepare yourself, knowing that you’ll have an excuse, because you’re always going to be short on time, you’re not going to know those people, you’ve always got your own problems at home, and getting involved… could be just too much. So we can always justify not getting involved, but the reality is to say that we care and not to act is not to care at all. And yet we’ve been called to care so deeply that we have to act. We know that because we have been talking about compassion, we’ve been talking about worshiping with our lives, and so I want to bring three points to your attention, three thoughts to take home today from this story.
The first one that we need to recognize is that to care is inconvenient. You see, it’s not often that you’re going to wake up inspired to go out and look for someone to help, but usually what happens is that God will interrupt our activities, inserting his agenda in our busyness, with something we didn’t plan on, something we weren’t expecting, and something that certainly wasn’t on our Google calendar for that day. You could say that it is a divine interruption.
The story continues in Luke 10:33, “But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.” Now guess what that word “pity” is in the original Greek text? Well, I’m not going to try to pronounce it (Splagchnizomai), but it’s the same word translated compassion. He felt that same kind of compassion as Jesus did.
So here’s what I want you to notice, this guy who was laying on the side of the road was a Jew and the guy who comes along was a Samaritan. And this is big because Jews and Samaritans don’t get along. The Jews totally shunned Samaritans because they were half breeds, they were half Jew, half Gentile, they were sinners, yet here the Samaritans stops to care for an enemy, because he has compassion on another human being.
And so Luke 10:34 tells us, “He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.” So this guy’s enemy stopped, inconvenienced himself, took care of his wounds, put him on his own donkey, and then walked alongside of his donkey to the nearest hotel somewhere along this 17 mile cow path. Now obviously, he had his own plans, his own agenda, and yet whatever that was, he allowed himself to be inconvenienced to care for another. Now let me assure, you that sometimes the most meaningful thing that happens in our day is because God interrupted what that we thought was so important with someone who was in great need. I promise you if you’ll not be in such a rush, if you’ll be sensitive enough to the promptings of God, he will interrupt you and give you compassion for someone who’s in need.
The second thing is that to care for others costs. When you care so much, it’s going to cost you something, because you have to give sacrificially. Look at verse 35 with me, the next day after spending the night caring for this guy, “The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'” Now to say that he took out two silver coins doesn’t mean much to us today, but in that day it was equal to two days wages, and so the Samaritan didn’t just drop the guy off, he was invested in him, and he promised to cover whatever extra expenses there may be. And so he shows us what it means to care, to feel so deeply that you’re willing to make a financial sacrifice. To care for others is often inconvenient and will cost you something.
The third thing is that to care for others changes lives. Consider the life of Jesus recorded in the Gospels. Look at him in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and watch as he’s inconvenienced time and time again; giving of himself, healing blind eyes, forgiving, and spending time with people that were so dirty, crude, and uncultured that no one else would. Watch as he cares for those who others didn’t care for. Jesus would make time for the little children. He showed compassion for widows and concern for the prostitutes and tax collectors. In the Gospels we see Jesus revealing the compassion of God and caring for people who are in need. He felt it so deeply that he was compelled to act. It’s just as the psalmist said, “My whole being will exclaim, ‘Who is like you, LORD? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them’” (Psalm 35:10).
To care for others changes someone else’s life, but it also changes yours. If we say we care than we must act, we must seize the opportunity to impact someone else’s life, because in a greater way it’s an opportunity for God to impact us. Jesus asked the man in Luke 10:36-37, "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."
Go and do likewise! We are called by God to care for others as an act of worship. Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' And 'Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31).
When you get closer to Jesus, when you get closer to him, you’re going to care for the things that matter to him. And when you care for others you’ll get closer to Jesus. Isn’t that the kind of people that we want to be? We want to be people who care. The people we meet may not believe what we believe, they may not agree with what we do, but they will know that we care. They will know that we’re the real thing and together we’re going to make a difference, because we can’t do nothing. To say that we care and not to act is not to care at all.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
May 15, 2016