GPS (grow|pray|serve) for Sunday, October 21, 2018
In response to Sunday’s message, “More Like Jesus: Compassion,” read Matthew 9:35-38 …
Questions for GROWTH …
1. As we long to be more like Jesus, this week we look at compassion. The Jews had an interesting idea about the origin of compassion. They believed compassion originated in your gut.
For example, in the King James Bible, Paul says to the Philippians in chapter 1, verse 8, “how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.” And he isn’t the only New Testament writer to use this figure of speech. In 1 John 3:16-17 we read, “Here’s how we know the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. But if you have the world’s good and see someone in need, and shut up your bowels of compassion from them, how can God’s love dwell in you?”
The Greek word used in the gospels translated compassion is a remarkable one. It’s splagchnizomai. It basically means that Jesus had pain in his bowels. His stomach was tied in knots. This word is used nine times to describe Jesus’ response to situations in which someone was suffering. Three other times, Jesus uses this same word in his parables to describe…
- How the master felt just before he forgave the debt of his unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:27).
- The feelings of the Good Samaritan just before he goes to help the wounded man on the side of the road (Luke 10:33).
- And the response of the father when he sees his Prodigal Son from a distance returning home (Luke 15:20).
Have you ever been so moved by someone’s suffering or situation that you’ve had a visceral reaction in your body? What was the situation? Why did it affect you in this way?
2. Why was Jesus affected so strongly by what he saw in the crowds?
3. Where does compassion come from? What do you think and why?
- Is it a learned behavior—something we’re taught by family or friends?
- Are we born with compassion? Is it a personality trait for some but not for others?
- Or is compassion a gift of the Holy Spirit?
Focus for PRAYER …
Pastor Greg described four responses people have when confronted with human need and suffering. Gauge your own response by meditating on the images at the bottom of this week’s GPS.
- The first is antipathy. Antipathy is an attitude of aversion. We look away because we cannot bear to look human suffering in the eye. Antipathy is a form of callousness. In extreme cases, it can lead to revulsion, prejudice or hatred. Have you known someone like this?
- The second response is apathy. Apathetic persons have no feelings of compassion for others. They are indifferent and unconcerned. Persons who work with the poor, the sick or addicts sometimes develop something called “compassion fatigue.” Adults caring for aging parents can become so depleted they begin to feel apathetic about the suffering of their own family members. Have you ever felt this way?
- A third response is sympathy. Sympathetic persons feel sorry for those who are suffering and may try to reach out in some way to relieve their pain through an act of kindness. In Hebrews 4:15 it is said of Jesus, “Our High Priest sympathizes with our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do.” What kinds of situations cause you to express sympathy for someone?
- Empathy is an even higher response. Empathy is allowing someone’s suffering to penetrate your own life. You feel their pain. You share in their sorrow. You weep with them. At the most extreme level possible, this is what Jesus did for you and me. Jesus bore our grief and carried our sorrows according to Isaiah 53. The New Testament says it over and over again. It’s at the heart of our faith. Jesus suffered and died for us.
Prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit how you can move toward empathy, which is the highest and most Christlike response of compassion to those who are suffering. You may also want to pray this prayer every day this week.
Mother Teresa’s Prayer of Compassion (with Psalm 51)
Lord, open my eyes,
that I may see you in my brothers and sisters.
Lord, open my ears,
that I may hear the cries of the hungry,
the cold, the frightened, the oppressed.
Lord, open my heart,
that I may love others as you love me.
Renew in me your spirit.
Lord, free me and make me one.
Have mercy on me, O God,
because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
blot out the stain of my sin.
Wash me clean from my guilt.
Purify me from my sin. Amen.
Actions for SERVICE …
Pastor Greg challenged us with these four ways to become more compassionate like Jesus.
1. Expose yourself and your children to persons who are in need. He said parents are not doing their children a favor by sheltering them from the true state of the world. He strongly exhorted parents to require their children to participate in experiences (such as a youth mission trip or service project with the poor and needy) that expose them to human suffering. Adults should also be stretched by experiences outside their comfort zone.
2. Imagine what life is like for persons who are suffering. As fellow human beings regardless of status, gender, race or nationality, we all share common aspirations and dreams, and we are all sinners in need of God’s redemption and grace. A person incapable of empathy is a pathetic human being.
3. Act to relieve the suffering of others. Compassion is not just an emotion. Many of Jesus’ miracles were motivated by compassion. Whenever he encountered a person in pain or with a need for food or acceptance or love, what did he do? He took action. Every time Jesus was moved with compassion, it resulted in a healing, a deliverance, a miracle or some other action that changed someone’s life. Compassion always says to us, “You must do something about this.”
Jesus said the harvest is plentiful; there are plenty of hurting, desperate, lost people out there looking for answers, but there simply aren’t enough compassionate, caring workers to send them out. The compassionate Jesus doesn’t sit around feeling sorry for people waiting for them to find him. He prepares his followers to go out and bring them in. What will you do this week to relieve someone’s pain and suffering as a compassionate follower of Jesus Christ? Who will you invite to come to Jesus?
4. Pray for the gift of compassion.
One thing more …
In a recent book, The Way Back: How Christians Blew Our Credibility and How We Can Get It Back by Phil Cooke and Jonathan Bock, they ask significant questions about why the early church succeeded in winning the Roman Empire to Christianity while we seem to be largely failing today.
How did the early church transform the Western world in such a relatively short period of time? They did it because they did things that baffled the Romans. They didn’t picket, they didn’t boycott, and they didn’t gripe about what was going on in their culture. They just did things that astonished unbelievers. They took in their abandoned babies. They helped their sick and wounded. They restored dignity to the slaves. And they were willing to die for what they believed.
After a while, their actions so softened the hearts of the Romans that they wanted to know more about who these Christians were and what was up with this God they believed in. Without confrontation, protest, political action or debate, COMPASSION won the day. And it always will.
“They will know we are Christians by our love.”