More Than Just a Good Idea
Dwayne Cline–Lead Pastor, Hughson St Baptist Church
When a loved one dies, a family declares bankruptcy, a young mother of four is diagnosed with cancer or a fire destroys the home of a friend we offer our care and support. We journey with those who are burdened with a seemingly unbearable weight and carry some of their load. We offer them compassion. We care for them in their time of need. Where does our compassion come from? Our compassion should be founded in God’s nature. He is compassionate. Nehemiah 9:17 reminds us, “But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.” Psalm 116:5 also states, “…our God is full of compassion.” Jesus compassionately cared for the multitudes. Compassion then, should characterize God’s people. In Ephesians 4 Paul commands, “be kind and compassionate to one another.” In Colossians 3 he writes, “clothe yourselves with compassion” and Peter calls believers to, “be compassionate and humble.”
Individually and corporately we should exemplify compassion. Our churches should be places where social services call when someone is in need. One of the challenges we face can be this, “How can we compassionately care for those whose plight is often desperate, when we are situated so far from the concentration of greatest need in our city?” Even when we are surrounded by opportunities demanding action we can be overwhelmed with what we do and where we start. Compassion can become a project or task over and against a way of living. Now don’t get me wrong, projects are important and helpful, but they cannot be an end in themselves. Compassionately caring for our city through an annual clothing give away or by painting and scrubbing the local mission is beneficial and a great learning experience to encourage your church to live compassionately but volunteering every week at the local mission, tutoring disadvantaged children twice a week, working with abused women trapped in the shelter system, feeding hungry children a nutritious breakfast before school and knowing each person you care for personally will bring deep and lasting change making compassionate living more than just a good idea. God will break you and teach you to love those neglected and forgotten by most in our culture.
But sometimes even compassion is not enough.
Sometimes we need to move from compassion to justice. Compassion is caring for someone in their time of need. Justice is eliminating what caused the need. Our God is a just God. Psalm 36:6 states, “Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep.” Psalm 97:2 proclaims, “Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.” God calls His people to live justly. Psalm 106:3 declares, “Blessed are they who maintain justice, who constantly do what is right.” “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor’ Zechariah 7:9-10. In every situation where we care compassionately we should reflect on whether or not there is an injustice. Sometimes there is not. Sometimes we care for someone because they are terminally ill. But there are times when an unjust landlord isn’t adjusting the heat to a liveable standard in the winter months or an employer won’t issue a T4 to a former employee and God can use us to intervene and administer justice making just living more than just a good idea. God calls us to actively engage arena’s of injustice, to actively care for those suffering under the tyranny of another or of an imposed, corrupt system. We are not to passively observe injustice. God calls us to eliminate what has caused the need. He calls us to seek justice.
But justice is more than simply eliminating needs. Any social service agency, faith group or government program can care for physical needs and eliminate tangible expressions of injustice, but to fully seek God’s justice as He desires, the gospel has to be at the core of the equation. To quote Dave Witt, “If all we do is seek to eliminate the physical and emotional manifestations of injustice, we have fallen short of all God calls us to – we must address the spiritual realities – our individual and cultural rebellion against God and the work of the spiritual forces of evil – in order to fully seek justice.”
Only God’s people can join Him in combating the life-destroying work of sin to seek the restoration of individuals, families, communities and cities so that we have whole and healthy relationships with each other and with God. Our compassionate way of life and seeking of justice should direct everyone we care for to our only hope…Jesus Christ. Then, and only then, will our calling to live compassionately and act justly be more than just a good idea in God’s great redemptive plan. Join us at the TrueCity Conference on Friday, February 24th and Saturday, February 25th as together we explore how to walk compassionately and seek justice in response to the gracious gift of life God has freely given us.