Compassion


When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,

what is man that you are mindful of him,

and the son of man that you care for him?

Psalm 8: 3, 4

 

People may think that they can take control of the sky and have dominion over the moon, the stars, and the space around them, but this realm has already been claimed by another. We might consider ourselves to be the true captains of our destinies and plan out our days with that in mind; however, on even our very best days, we will arrive there a distant second to the Lord. God made everything that exists in the seen world and far beyond that. His creative handiwork was accomplished in order to fulfill His own purposes; so, none of the universe belongs to any other, and there is no way for any of us to take dominion over even the smallest corner of that place that we call outer space. It is the height of human arrogance and the pinnacle of folly to strive for such a thing.

 

The same God who made all of these wonders and set the massive clockwork that is the universe into motion cares about and even counts the hairs on the heads of each person on the earth. The Lord also made every one of us, and His compassion, mercy, grace, and love are poured out upon our lives and into our journeys through life. God desires to see justice tendered to everyone regardless of race, gender, wealth, nationality, or other factors. He seeks to bring each of us into a relationship with Him, and the Lord uses the love and care that we humans can provide to others as His primary means of exhibiting that precious redemptive zeal. We are to be diligent and self-sacrificing in our efforts to meet needs where they exist and to welcome home the stranger wherever those homeless ones are forced to wander.

 

When we care for the weak, provide a place of dwelling to the homeless, feed the undernourished, and grant lasting asylum to the oppressed, we are expressing the same loving attributes that we have benefited from in the sacrificial love that Christ has bathed us with by His cleansing baptism of redemption. The Lord has made it clear to us that He holds even the most insignificant of people as precious and as worthy of all care and protection. Thus, the Creator of the universe, the sovereign God over the heavens and the earth, desires to have each of His people join with Him in living out Christ’s calling for us to love others, to protect the weaker ones, and to grant the blessing of welcome to all who are needful of shelter and its rest. People may think that they can gain dominion over the earth and the heavens by might and by force, but in truth, that already belongs to God, and we enter into His purposes and embrace Christ’s calling when we set aside fear, self-protection, and false power in order to bless our world with the peace that comes through caring for others.

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Kiss the Son,

lest he be angry, and you parish in the way,

for his wrath is quickly kindled.

Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Psalm 2: 12

 

God is not to be trifled with, and neither is His Son, Jesus. Although the Lord does come to all people in love and with grace and mercy extended to the ends of the earth, He is also the God of righteousness and justice. He is Lord and Rightful King over all of the earth and the entirety of the universe beyond it. There are no limits to that authority, and there exists no end to God’s reach when it comes to redemption or rebuke. This reality is something to hold in great awe and with extraordinary respect. Christ has been restrained in His application of judgement upon our lawlessness and sin, but that restraint will end, and that end may come at any moment. People and nations should be ready to answer to their Lord from the depths of their hearts and with the ledger of their life’s thoughts, words, and actions opened and fully displayed for judgment.

 

Although this verse caries in it a strong note of warning, it also comes with the strongest possible one of hope. There is the absolute promise of blessing that God speaks throughout history over His creation. The Lord’s blessing brings life in its fullest sense. So, it carries with it peace, joy, care, compassion, mercy, comfort, love, and redemption. The Lord’s blessing provides those who place ourselves under His authority and inside of the law of His holy kingdom with understanding and wisdom to use in conducting the affairs of life in a loving and just manner. His Word brings us into the center of His will for all of the aspects of conducting life on this earth, and His Spirit guides us ever deeper into knowledge of that word’s author so that its wisdom can be applied to every circumstance and situation that we might encounter. There is nothing in this life or on this earth that does not fit within the guidance and the wise direction of the Lord.

 

So, there is no good reason to wait or to delay in turning to Christ and in giving all over to His authority and rule. In fact, it is both foolish and personally harmful to withhold anything or any part of ourselves from Him. God desires to bless our lives greatly, and He grants His blessings to us throughout all of the days of our lives in ways that impact every aspect of our journey through life. He also wishes to redeem and to bless the entire world in like manner, and Christ calls upon everyone that He has blessed with His presence to participate in this redemptive work. We are to seek after justice and to promote mercy in every corner of our world, and we are to do these things in the name of our Lord, the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ. There is no true redemption without Christ at its center, and there is no lasting peace absent the truth of God’s Word. In the end, all salvation comes from God, and His salvation with its unending blessings is found only in Christ who we are called upon by the Lord to continuously proclaim in all of His glory and might.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,

whose trust is the LORD.

He is like a tree planted by water,

that sends out its roots by the stream,

and does not fear when heat comes,

for its leaves remain green,

and is not anxious in the year of drought,

for it does not cease to bear fruit.

Jeremiah 17: 7, 8

 

The setting of these verses would suggest that the person described here by Jeremiah was something of the odd duck, the outlier, in his day. The nation, itself, had taken a turn away from God. It was operating out of the wisdom of man, and the people were choosing to follow the counsel of profane and worldly rulers. The Lord was clearly upset with His people, and He was troubled by the impact that His nation, Israel, was having on the world. There was no longer a national witness for justice, peace-making, righteous living, and outreach to all who were world-weary and oppressed. This was God’s calling for Israel and for that nation’s people, and it remains a significant part of God’s calling for people who know and follow Him today. We are to be the voices for compassion, love, acceptance, and peace in our world. We are to stay true to truth as it is presented to us in God’s Word; so, we are to follow the example of this outlier, this odd duck in Jeremiah’s narrative.

 

The prophet is not speaking about a place; for, it is neither a nation nor is it a religion that will set God’s people in the right situation and location to be fed deeply by God’s truth. He seems to be suggesting that it is an attitude of heart and mind that creates the setting for this sort of nourishing of the soul and body, and the only physical local that matters in all of this is the one that comes about as we seek after the Lord with all of our heart, mind, and body. God works in and through people who are different and even more so through those who choose to be on the outside of the cultural norms in our times. Since humanity turned away from close communion with God, we have developed and promoted a law of moral and ethical conduct that has shifted by degrees away from the pure and wise guidance of God’s Word. This reality of our world makes it inevitable that Godly thinking and acting will be differentiated from the way that the majority of our societies engage in the same processes.

 

So, from God’s perspective, there is nothing at all wrong with drinking from that rare stream called Absolute Truth when those around us are gathering to satisfy their thirst at the river of The Worldly Way with its abundant supply and somewhat murky lack of real clarity. It is worthwhile to be left off of the invitation lists for society’s gatherings in order to spend that time in contemplation, prayer, and listening for the God’s voice of wisdom, insight, and direction. There is a time and a place for engagement with the world and with its activities, but these are not the places where our roots sink down into the life-giving source of the counsel and the nourishment that will sustain us through the harder days that will inevitably come. Finally, there will be days when God’s people will stand out from the crowd by virtue of our vibrant and healthy peace, calm, and assurance that stand in stark contrast to the distress that droughts of various causes and types have brought upon the world at large. These are days when the true fruit of God’s love, grace, mercy, and redemption will draw people toward their Savior. These are the days when all of that time spent living as one who is different, that odd duck, will be counted for the glory of the Lord.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 2: 24

 

Jesus carried a great weight on His back and in His spirit when He was placed upon that cross of torture and death. When I consider the event itself, I am hit squarely in the face with the extraordinary harshness and brutality of what happened, but the human and physical aspects of that day are light and minor in comparison with the spiritual and emotional aspects of what transpired. In that moment, Jesus took with Him all of my sin, my disobedience to God, and all of the sin of every person who would ever walk upon this earth. Every simple unloving act, angry thought, deceit, violent action and contemplation, and all of the rest of the harsh and troubling history of existence that is outside of God’s perfect will and way was heaped upon Him and was there to torture Jesus in those final hours of life on this earth.

 

What is even more remarkable to me is that Christ did all of this knowing how brutally painful the specific act of sacrifice would be and also with knowledge of just how unworthy each of us, myself certainly included, would be. I do not deserve to receive the sacrificial love that Jesus pours out over me, but He loves me still. I have done nothing to earn my place at God’s table of grace; yet, Christ has granted me a seat there. My life has been lived out in a manner that is far short of God’s standard of righteousness, and still, Christ calls me into service to His name and in His Kingdom. None of this makes sense when it is considered in light of worldly and human standards of earned privilege and responsibility that is granted based upon merit. However, God does not desire to make sense in human terms or to operate by worldly standards. His view of life and of human worth come from outside of all that we know and experience here, and His concept of grace and of forgiveness transcend this world’s standards of worthiness as they overcome their limitations.

 

In this world, we are held back and constrained by our status in many ways, and worth is often granted based upon external factors and conditions. To God we are all extraordinarily beautiful and our worth is measured in terms of Christ’s presence within us, for in Christ, we are healed from all of the brokenness and the loss that sin has brought to dwell within our hearts, minds, and bodies. This is a form of healing that takes place on the inside of our beings and that influences and effects all that we are. Christ’s beautiful and blameless blood, which was poured out as the essential sacrifice for my sins and for yours, is the agent of healing for our souls. So, as we surrender to Christ, we are made spiritually alive, granted a home in God’s eternal kingdom, and given place and purpose in Christ’s here and now kingdom come on earth. Christ takes the weight of sin from us, and He sets us free to serve Him by loving the world as God does, for the eternal righteousness that we now possess is founded on love and is carried out in acts of grace, mercy, and justice.

Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?
Why then has the health of the daughter of my people
not been restored?

Jeremiah 8: 22

 

This is a lament. There is no healing to be found in the land, and the children who should be the great hope of the future and the delight of our eyes today are wasting away and falling to the ravages of disease and under the violent hands of war. When we see them being consumed by all that is anti-god in our world, we seek to find a physician, a ruler or leader, who will apply a healing salve to their wounds, but there are none to be had. Instead, too many of our nations are being led by war-mongers and by self-aggrandizing people that desire to profit upon the misery of others. This is truly a sad state of affairs, and it is one that leads us ever farther away from God’s will and takes us deeper into a growing wilderness of isolation from God’s truth and righteous justice.

 

This is also a challenge that followers of Christ face today. We desire for our nations to be led by people who apply the balm of justice, mercy, reconciliation, and love to the wounded souls that are being churned up and damaged by the conflicts, struggles, and other evil actions that run rampant upon the earth and in our communities. Yet, many of our leaders seem to be more intent upon placing bombs of protectionism, greed, fear, and isolationism along the pathways that should lead to safety than they are desirous of granting that safe harbor to these troubled souls. They also focus their peace-making energy on approaches to ending conflicts that are based upon over-powering the opponent and are accomplished by dropping bombs upon those opposing forces. Force, violence, and coercive victory have seldom been the answer to our world’s disagreements and struggles, and they hold little promise of leading us into peace today.

 

As John Newton, the writers of African-American spirituals, and even Edgar Allen Poe recognized, the balm that truly brings healing to the land and restorative health to its people is found in Christ alone. We cannot place our hope in our nations or in their rulers, for they will not provide what is needed to bind up wounds and to stop our violent ways. Our laws, in and of themselves, will not bring life where death has taken hold, and our armies and weapons will certainly not grant peace to our world. Christ is the answer to poverty, to greed, to violence, and to all other forms of chaos that is running rough-shod across our planet. Christ works in people to transform our thinking and to empower our hearts with His desire for healing and restoration. Then, He uses people to go forth into our world to make His redemption tangible and real. In Christ we must hold our leaders accountable to words and actions that model Jesus and that honor God. By Christ’s love we must bind the wounds of the broken, embrace the stranger, feed the bodies and the souls of the lost and the homeless, and grant asylum to the victims of our world’s aggressions. Christ is that balm that brings about healing and peace, and we are called by Him to apply its soothing salve to all of our world’s wounded and need-filled people.

 

All the ends of the earth shall remember

and turn to the LORD

and all the families of the nations

shall worship before you.

Psalm 22: 27

 

This is not true today, and it has never been true in the course of humanity’s long history, either. There have always been people who went their own ways, and these people live in all of the corners of the globe. We have formed families and those families are organized into nations while still seeking to follow after some other guidance than the truth and wisdom that God provides for us. We humans have been a stubborn and a stiff-necked people from our very earliest of days, and we show little inclination to change now. Yet, the Lord is an optimist, or more accurately, He knows where the story leads, and. He gets to write the ending of it all with His bold and gracious hand of redemption.

 

God desires that we would be a people with strong character and well thought out responses to the vital issues of life such as faith, loyalty, justice, and love. He gave us the ability to form our own thoughts and feelings knowing that this would also create tension and lead to disobedience and rebellion on the parts of many people. However, it also causes us to be people who enter into a relationship with God that is committed, volitional, and engaged. When we come to Christ, we have done this because we desire to surrender our lives to Him and to be transformed by Him into people who dwell in the righteousness and truth of God’s Word. God is working in our world, and He is present in every corner of it. Christ is calling to hearts across the globe with His appeal to surrender and to return to the grace, love, and restoration that our Creator, God, provides for us.

 

Today is a good time to enter into God’s visionary view of our world. Where we see brokenness and loss, Christ sees need and potential. As we encounter opposition to our faith and rejection of our God, Christ views these same people as individuals who need to experience His love and know His grace. In Christ we have not been granted an exclusive place at God’s eternal table, instead we have been granted an endless supply of invitations to the feast that we can hand out to everyone that we encounter. We have been handed an unstoppable reservoir of mercy and grace to pour out with unchecked generosity onto the wounds and the heartaches of others. Christ will touch every corner of this world with His message of new life, restoration, justice, love, and peace, and He will be carried there as we believe in God’s vision for people, for families, and for nations.

I therefore, a prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.

Ephesians 4: 1

 

It is my belief that we all would like to be considered as being worthy. This goes for almost everything that we do and each position that we hold. Very few people seek out or strive for something less; for, this quality of aspiring to live in a manner that truly merits recognition is something that God designed into people when He made us in His image. Yet, none of us, no one, actually lives in a worthwhile manner. We all come up short of the standard that our Creator sets for us, and we do so with great regularity, and we do it out of a form of practiced skill, too. People, I am a true pack leader in this, fail to love, to show mercy, to care for others, to embrace truth, to live righteously, to be faithful to Christ, and to follow Him in ways that are numerous and on-going. As Paul reminds us in Romans 3:23, we all sin and fall short of the glory of God.

 

Yet, that is not the way that God wants for us to see ourselves, and it is certainly not the manner that He desires for us to live. He made us for much greater things than that. God designed and created people to be the highest expression of Himself and of His creative nature. We are intended to spend our days in intimate relationship with God, and He calls us to express this relationship in the manner that we love and care for each and every aspect of the world and every one of the people that inhabit it. God has entrusted us with a very high calling and an immeasurably important set of tasks. There is no one else who understands all of this as well or who has the access to the eternal wisdom that is required for it other than people who know the Creator, Himself, through knowing the Son, Jesus Christ.

 

Christ is the answer to the great challenge of how we, unworthy sinners that we all are, can hope and aspire to actually be worthy in God’s eyes. We are not capable of living in this sinless and love-infused way, but Christ embodies all that is holy, righteous, loving, and pure, and as He enters into each of us when we believe in Him, His character and qualities become our own. So, as we become, like Paul, prisoners of Christ, we submit our lives to following His calling for us. We turn from serving our own will and from seeking what we want and desire to living as servants of the Great King and to seeking to bring the love, truth, grace, justice, and righteousness that are the center of Christ’s heart into every interaction and engagement along the road that we are traveling. It is through this continual submission to Christ that we become truly worthy of His calling, and as this worthiness infuses our being, the world will see the glory of the Lord standing before them in the form of human love and care.

 

 

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