Having a Heart Just Like Jesus (3) - Being Compassionate
By Randy Sexton
We know that God wants us to be a compassionate people. And most of the time we are. But occasionally we forget and we allow ourselves to get wrapped up in our own self-interests. This study is about having a compassionate heart.
Using Max Lucado’s book Just Like Jesus as a study guide, my personal Bible study with a hurting brother a few years ago brought out the following points about how we can demonstrate a compassionate heart. We considered the power we have in our hands for good or for evil, we talked about the example of Jesus dealing with the ultimate outcast in the New Testament – the leper, and finally we prayed about the power a “Godly touch” can have on the lives of others.
The Power That We Have in Our Hands for Good or for Evil
In his book, Lucado asks us to picture someone filming a documentary on our hands – telling our story based on the life of our hands. The film would depict the innocence of youth when the hand is wrapped around a mother’s hand for guidance, then stroking a father’s face affectionately. Before long, however, the hand is seen aggressively exerting its own will against a brother or selfishly taking a toy from another. Lucado sums up his analogy, “Oh, the power of our hands. Leave them unmanaged and they become weapons: clawing for power, strangling for survival, seducing for pleasure. But manage them and our hands become instruments of grace…” (p.26).
Notice the words of Annie Johnson Flint’s song, “The World’s Bible.” This song captures beautifully the influence that we can have on the lives of others by the way we live before them.
Christ has no hands but our hands to do His work today;
He has no feet but our feet to lead men in His way;
He has no tongue but our tongue to tell men how He died;
He has no help but our help to bring them to His side.
We are the only Bible the careless world will read;
We are the sinners gospel, we are the scoffer's creed;
We are the Lord's last message, given in deed and word;
What if the type is crooked? What if the print is blurred?
What if our hands are busy with other work than His?
What if our feet are walking where sin's allurement is?
What if our tongues are speaking of things His lips would spurn?
How can we hope to help Him and hasten His return?
The Ultimate Outcast in New Testament Times Was the Leper (Mt. 8:1-4)
The leper was to be pitied indeed. The leper is infected by a condition he did not seek, rejected by those he knew; avoided by people he did not know and condemned to a future he could not bear. Lucado tries to capture what might have gone through the leper’s mind as he faced these humiliations.
“Their horror of my disease was greater than their concern for my heart – so they and everyone else I have seen since, stepped back.” (p. 29)
“… I will never forget the one who dared to touch me. He could have healed me with a word. But he wanted to do more than heal me. He wanted to honor me, to validate me, to christen me. Imagine that … unworthy of the touch of a man, yet worthy of the touch of God.” (p. 33)
The Mark account of Jesus’ encounter with the leper, says that the man told others in spite of what Jesus said about not telling anyone. Why did Jesus command the man to be silent? What happened when the man spoke out?
The Power of the Godly Touch
Consider the “Godly touches” that you have experienced. Remember the time that you were discouraged and someone offered you a message of hope? Have you ever been having a particularly frustrating day and someone gave you a smile and told you a story that inspired you to reach down for that little extra?
Can’t we offer the same? “… to pray over the sick and minister to the weak… writing letters, dialing phones, baking pies.” (p. 34)
“We fear saying the wrong thing or using the wrong tone or acting the wrong way. So rather than do it incorrectly, we do nothing at all.” (p. 34)
Do you rememember periods in your life when no words came, but a touch said it all. I have such memories; when Lora died; when my sister died; when my father died.
I must face my own feelings of awkwardness of what to say after one is baptized, confesses sin, or needs visiting in the hospital, or at a visitation or funeral. Tradition at many congregations is to gather up front to express words of encouragement. Many times I have gone to the person later or sent a personal note – sometimes these are more comfortable ways for me.
What a powerful ending to Lucado's book: “Aren’t we glad Jesus didn’t make the same mistake? If your fear of doing the wrong thing prevents you from doing anything, keep in mind the perspective of the lepers of the world. They aren’t picky. They aren’t finicky. They’re just lonely. They are yearning for a godly touch. Jesus touched the untouchables of the world. Will you do the same?” (p. 34). The Apostle Paul tells us, “… clothe yourself with compassion…” (Col. 3:12 ). To fulfill that command requires a deliberate act that we intentionally do! Compassion never “just happens.” And, as we do it every day, it becomes second nature. Think of someone who has a compassionate spirit? How is this spirit expressed through his/her actions, speech, and demeanor? With the Lord’s help, we can all work at better showing compassion.