Sermon Transcript/Article - The Compassion of Jesus and Christian Social Responsibility
Compassion is a form of love that results in acts of kindness and mercy. Compassion is stirred up within humans when they encounter people who are suffering. The Bible speaks to us about compassion. In the Old Testament - Zechariah 7:9 states "This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. In the New Testament, we read in Colossians 3:12 “as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” In Exodus 22 we can learn about God’s expectations concerning compassion. And throughout the Gospels (Mathew, Mark, Luke and John) we can observe the compassionate example of Jesus. This message is about compassion –not only the compassion of Jesus. But it’s also about the compassion and social responsibility of Christians.
Text - Exodus 22:21-31
In Exodus 22 vs 21 -31 (NIV) the Bible lists specific examples given by God to Moses and the Israelites on how to apply the 10 Commandments. In these verses who will hear about compassion and social responsibility.
21 “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt. 22 “Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. 23 If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. 24 My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless. 25 “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest. 26 If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it by sunset, 27 because that cloak is the only covering your neighbor has. What else can they sleep in? When they cry out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate. 28 “Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people. 29 “Do not hold back offerings from your granaries or your vats. “You must give me the firstborn of your sons. 30 Do the same with your cattle and your sheep. Let them stay with their mothers for seven days, but give them to me on the eighth day. 31 “You are to be my holy people.
God’s Holy People
This section of the Bible comes shortly after the 10 Commandments that are listed in Exodus 20 and it is part of the laws listed throughout chapters 21-23. These laws focus more on specific examples and case studies that include - how to treat servants, issues regarding personal injury, protection, and property, justice and mercy, social responsibility, how to worship, keeping the Sabbath, and observing annual festivals. All of these rules and laws were for the Israelites. God knew that this large group of people which was now free from Egyptian control and slavery was struggling with their human nature and they needed His guidance. They needed to know how to get along with each other and to know what God expected from them. God called the Israelites “His chosen people” and He set them apart from the rest of the world in hopes that their holy living would be example to others. They were to be followers of God. So, He gave them the 10 Commandments and other rules to guide. These rules were not for the Egyptians, not for the Canaanites or any other group of people around them. God was only addressing His people that chose to follow Him. And that was stated in Exodus 22 verse 31when God said to Israel- You are to be my holy people. God had a special plan for the Israelites to be His representatives to the other people living around them – the Gentiles (which includes everyone else who isn’t Jewish) and this was so that the Gentiles could also come to know God. He wanted the nations to be blessed through Israel. However, the Israelites did not do a very good job at representing God. Instead of following the 10 Commandments and His other rules, they betrayed God and followed the foreign gods of the Gentiles. So God sent His Son, Jesus, to save the entire world not just the Israelites. Jesus had a ministry on earth in which he preached about God to all – including the Gentiles. He commissioned these new followers of His, both Jews and Gentiles, to be the new blessing to the nations. Romans 11 explains this by comparing Gentile believers to the branches of a wild olive tree that have been grafted into the original cultivated olive tree of Israel. So now Gentiles, too, are partakers of God’s promises and can inherit His blessings of salvation. The final tree represents the collective people of God, both the natural branches, which are the Jews, and the wild braches, the Gentiles. So, this new group of collective believers is called the church –and it includes all people, of every race and nationality who have chosen to become followers of God.
So now the 10 Commandments and rules of God are for Jews and Gentiles, for His church, for His individual followers to help them live holy lives. They are not for the entire nation of America, or Egypt or any other nation in the world. God did not intend for us to impose these laws and commandments on everyone else who has no interest in following Him. God did not call us to become the morality police. God wants His followers to focus on themselves and doing what’s right. The people of God, the church, we are responsible for our own behavior, not for everyone else’s behavior. You can’t force God’s rules and instructions on people who don’t want them. So, putting up a list of the 10 Commandments in a public building, will not force people to improve their behavior. People only want to follow God’s rules after they have made a commitment to follow Him and then they will have the Holy Spirit living in them. The Holy Spirit changes each of us individually. We don’t have the human ability to perfectly follow God’s rules of holy living, that’s why we need Jesus as our Savior. That’s why we need the Holy Spirit living in us, to help us obey Him, to help us show compassion the way that Jesus does.
Social Responsibility in Exodus 20
Among all these specific examples of how to apply the 10 commandments is a special section listed in chapter 22 that I read earlier. It is about social responsibility. In this section, God tells His people that He expects them to show respect to everyone regardless of their social standing and other differences. He gives specific examples of people that can be easily exploited such as foreigners, widows, orphans, and the poor. God wants to make sure that the most vulnerable in society are protected, because He knows how easy it is to take advantage of these people. And unfortunately, we see this in our own country. Yes. Here in the great United States of America people are being exploited. For example: there are some employers taking advantage of immigrant farm workers by underpaying them and giving them substandard living conditions. There are children who cannot protect themselves that are being physically and sexually abused. Elderly people are taken advantage of financially. Poor people are offered payday loans with annual interest rates as high as 400%. There are hate crimes targeting people based on their race, sexual orientation, or religion. We even have human trafficking and under aged prostitution in this country. And God hates this. He has mercy on those who are mistreated and oppressed. Exodus 22, Vs. 27 even states God’s own words saying: When they cry out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.
Jesus is Compassionate
In the Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John - we learn much about Jesus, who is God. The New Testament shows us multiple examples of the compassion of Jesus. Much of what Jesus did during His ministry on Earth was done to show His credibility – that He was sent from God, that He was God. But in addition to seeing His credibility, His miracles show us the great compassion He had for people. And this compassion, a reflection of God’s love, is what made Him so attractive. People gave up their current lives and followed Him around traveling by foot. We see the compassion of Jesus - when He freed demon possessed people from evil spirits, when He healed blind people and those with leprosy. He also healed a woman with internal bleeding, a paralyzed man, and a man with a withered hand, Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, a Roman centurion's servant, and other people with other physical conditions. Jesus showed compassion to a widow when he brought her dead son back to life. In Mark 6 we see that a huge crowd of people showed up to see and hear Jesus. Verse 34 says: “He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So He began teaching them many things.” And then he fed this hungry group all the fish and bread that they could eat. In Luke chapter 7, we see a woman who earned her living as a prostitute. She found Jesus, worshipped Him by cleansing His feet with her tears and perfume. Jesus knew her sinful life, but He showed her compassion, forgave her sins, and told her to go in peace - that her faith had saved her.
Jesus also gave us examples of how to have compassion through the example of the prodigal’s son and the good Samaritan. In Luke 15 the prodigal’s son, who had left his father and squandered away the wealth his father had given to him, returned home. Verse 20 says that when the father saw him, he ran to him, was filled with compassion for his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. Although the son did not deserve forgiveness and to be accepted by his father – he was, because of His father’s love and compassion. And this father’s example also represents God’s love and compassion for us, too. We are so undeserving, we ignore God and we insult Him, yet He is always waiting for us with open arms to welcome us back with love and compassion. In Luke 10 we have the story of the Good Samaritan told by Jesus himself. This example shows the compassion of a Samaritan (a person considered to be in a low class, who crossed social boundaries to care for a person in a different class.
Jesus had compassion for the marginalized members of society. His compassion was liberating for women. Actually, Jesus’ relationship with women was considered revolutionary and radical in a patriarchal society in which women were treated as social and spiritual inferiors to men. Women were used to being bartered off by their fathers and husbands. They had no property rights and were not allowed to learn about spiritual truths. They were considered unclean, untouchable, and in need of purification after their monthly cycles and childbirth. But Jesus challenged the traditional gender restrictions and taboos. He allowed women to touch Him, to speak with Him, and to eat with Him. He healed women and forgave their sins. He taught them spiritual truths. He encouraged them to witness for Him. He allowed women to travel with Him as disciples and to help support His ministry of proclaiming the kingdom of God. Jesus showed women compassion and He publically challenged their traditional roles. Like the Prodigal, the Good Samaritan, and Jesus - we, too, are expected to show compassion for all people regardless of their social standing, race, gender, or religion. Jesus does not discriminate. He makes Himself, His love, and His salvation available to anyone who wants to accept Him and follow Him.
In our country, we like to tell lawyer jokes and lawyers don’t really have the best reputation for being compassionate, but in actuality many lawyers are compassionate. In our own communities we have lawyers that work for non-profit organizations who help represent women in domestic abuse situations and low income people who don’t have the financial means to represent themselves. One of the most impressive Christian ministries that I have heard of is International Justice Mission. This organization has a global team of lawyers, investigators, social workers, and community activists working to rescue victims of slavery, child prostitution, and police brutality. They use the court system to hold human traffickers and other criminals accountable. They also provide counseling and help for the survivors of this violence and abuse. What a wonderful way for Christians to show compassion.
Mother Teresa was one of the most well-known compassionate women. She dedicated her life to serving Jesus by showing compassion to those who weren’t being cared for. She established homes for those with leprosy, orphanages, a nursing home, health clinics, hospices for the dying, and a home for people infected with HIV/AIDS. She rescued children from a hospital in a warzone. She ministered to the hungry in Ethiopia and radiation victims at Chernobyl. Her example motivated many other people to live out compassion in their own lives. At the time her death, Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity had over 4,300 sisters and brotherhood serving in her 610 missions in 123 countries.
Henri Nouwen, not only was he a pastor and priest, college professor, writer and public speaker, but he was also the personal caregiver for a disabled man and he dedicated himself to praying for people. He had this to say about compassion. “When I really bring others into my innermost being and feel their pains, their struggles, their cries in my own soul, then I leave myself, so to speak, and become them; then I have compassion. Compassion lies at the heart of our prayer for our fellow human beings. When I pray for the world, I become the world; when I pray for the endless needs of the millions, my soul expands and wants to embrace them all and bring them into the presence of God. But in the midst of that experience I realize that compassion is not mine, but God’s gift to me. I cannot embrace the world, but God can. I cannot pray, but God can pray in me.”
Conclusion and Application
Jesus was compassionate. His compassion and holiness is what made him attractive to the people who didn’t yet know Him. They were drawn to Jesus and accepted His message about God, because of the kind and compassionate way that He acted. He didn’t win converts by demanding that people follow His rules. The rules of holy living came after they made a personal decision and commitment to follow Him.
The application for this sermon is pretty straight forward. We, His followers are to be imitators of Jesus and represent Him well to others. Therefore, we too are to show compassion. And we have multiple opportunities throughout our community and the world. We can start by showing compassion to our own family members, even our own children. What a wonderful opportunity and honor it is that parents can represent the compassion of Jesus to their children. We can pray that Jesus will open our eyes to the needs of people in our workplace. We can encourage people in our community by volunteering at the homeless shelter and soup kitchens and other social service entities. We can show compassion to people throughout the world by financially supporting children through sponsorship programs and supporting ministries that meet the various needs of those who are suffering. And there are so many more ways to show compassion. Jesus knows you well and if you ask Him, He will give you a special way to show compassion – a way that works well with your personality and your opportunities. People are emotionally overwhelmed with their problems. They need God’s people to care and to help. Showing the compassion of Jesus is a wonderful way to live as a witness for Him.