Compassionate Service

Bob RoaneJesus Christ, Service

Isaiah prophesied about Jesus the Messiah: “A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out, till He has brought justice through to victory. In His name the nations will put their hope.” (Matthew 12:20-21, quoting Isaiah 42:1-4)

Compassionate Christians Point to our Compassionate Lord

Jim Petersen of The Navigators had a friend from South America named Mario. They studied the Bible together for four years before Mario became a Christian. Years after his conversion, Mario asked Peterson, “Do you remember what made me decide to become a Christian?” Jim recalled all their Scripture studies and discussions, but Mario’s reply surprised him. “Remember that first time I stopped by your house? We were on our way someplace together, and I had a bowl of soup with you and your family. I sat there observing you, your wife, and your children, and how you had such love, care, and concern for each other. And I wondered, ‘When will I have a relationship like this with my fiancé?’ When I realized that the answer was ‘never,’ I concluded that I had to become a Christian for the sake of my own survival.”

Petersen recalled that his children behaved badly that day and he that was frustrated at having to correct them in front of Mario. Yet Mario saw Christ’s compassion binding that imperfect family together and flowing out from them to him. Jim commented: “Any Christian who sincerely seeks to walk with Jesus, in spite of all our flaws and inconsistencies, reflects something of Christ to others.”1

Ephesians 5:1-2 says: “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” The Petersens were reflecting Christ and the Holy Spirit used them to bring Mario to faith in the Lord.

This post builds upon Jesus-like Service, Depending on Jesus, and Humble Servants of Jesus.

Christ-like Servants Demonstrate His Empathy and Sympathy

In His days on earth, Jesus was always ministering to people who were bruised and broken, by the fall and its effects, by their own sins and others’ sins against them. He always had a heart for people who were scared and scarred, whose light was almost burned out or snuffed out or washed out. The Lord attracted hurting people like a magnet. And He didn’t only listen to their troubles. He grieved with them because He could feel other people’s sadness. That’s part of His genius that we can imitate, as the Holy Spirit enables us.

Jesus our High Priest is able to sympathize and understand our weaknesses and temptations. He knows exactly how it feels to be human in every respect as we are, because He is 100% God and 100% man in one person.2 When Jesus saw the widow of Nain about to bury her only son, His heart was filled with pity and mercy for her.3 Christ joined with Mary and Martha, shedding tears over the death of Lazarus, their brother. He shared in their grief and then lovingly raised Lazarus from the grave.4 The New Testament is full of similar accounts of Jesus dealing with people compassionately.

Bishop J. C. Ryle (1816-1900) was that way too. People said that he had the strength and courage of a lion and the tender heart of a woman. The Apostle Paul was also that way. He wrote to Christians, “Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only God’s gospel but our lives as well.”5 Christ says in Isaiah, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you (His people) on the palms of my hands.”6

Jesus is the God of all comfort and compassion and He saves us from our sins to make us more and more like Him.7

Lord, Take Away our Selfishness

If we feel sorry for ourselves, that’s selfish. But if we weep with and for others, that’s empathy. And that’s being Christ-like, the best way to serve others well. The following quotation is sometimes attributed to Plato (429–347 BC), but Rev. John Watson (1850-1907) is the most likely source. He said:

Most of us are acutely aware of our own struggles and preoccupied with our own problems. We sympathize with ourselves because we see our own difficulties clearly. But let us be kind to others, for most are fighting a hard battle. When you meet someone, treat them as if they were in serious trouble and you will be right more than half the time.8

Questions that Motivate Us to Serve

Has the Lord Jesus treated you more gently than you deserved? Has He rescued you from messes you got yourself into? Has He encouraged and equipped you through times of trouble? Has He strengthened your weak faith and wiped away your tears? Surely He has! So then pass on the blessing to others.

Has Christ fed and forgiven, clothed and cared for you many times? Has He listened to and loved you when no one else did? Has He picked you up when you were fearful and failing? Has He answered your prayers and answered even when you forgot to pray? Surely He has done these things for us a thousand times! So then let us do the same for others, inside and outside the church.

Pastor Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813-1843) served Christ unselfishly during his brief life. He wrote, “It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus.”9 In Christ’s Parable of the Good Samaritan, He reminds us of God’s compassionate character and then commands us, “Go and do likewise.”10

Prayer: King Jesus, help us to walk close to you today and be a blessing to others. Amen.

Notes (various translations): 1 Adapted from Tim Chester, A Meal with Jesus (Crossway, 2011), p. 95-96.     2 Heb 4:15.     3 Luke 7:11-17.     4 John 11:17-44.     5 1 Thess 2:6-8.     6 Isaiah 49:15-16.     7 Rom 8:29, 12:1-2; 1 Cor 11:1; 2 Cor 3:18. 5:17; Gal 2:20, 5:22-23; Eph 2:10, 4:22-24; Phil 1:6, 2:1-5.   8     9 John R. W. Stott, The Preacher’s Portrait (1961, p. 120).     10 Luke 10:25-37.