Christ’s disciples are often less gracious and less compassionate than Jesus. I hate to admit this, but it’s true. Recently I preached from Matthew 15 where the disciples of Jesus want to dismiss a Canaanite mother of a demon-possessed girl. Now, there was a lot at play in this encounter—race being at the top of the list. Ultimately we see Jesus make this “outsider” an “insider” but it came through a fairly rough dialogue with the mother and the disciples.
Rather than send the mother away, Jesus was going to save her. However, the disciples clearly didn’t have a paradigm for this. She was a defiled, detestable Gentile. Nonetheless, Jesus want her to experience His grace. This caused me to honestly ask, “How often do I operate outside of compassion and tenderness towards others’ needs…especially when those others are not like me?”
We need his help.
We need God to work in our hearts in such a way that we respond to others with mourning, weeping, sympathy, and compassion. Essentially, we need God’s help for us to respond like He wants us to which is often not how we naturally want to respond. My hope is that we would seek to learn more about what injustice looks like for ALL people—not just for “my” people. It’s amazing how difficult it is to sympathize with others who have unique needs outside of our own? It’s awful how difficult it is to sympathize with folks from other races, socio-economic classes, or the disabled—responding with mourning and compassion rather than trying to find the non-compassionate loophole in a particular story.
Step in. Don’t send away.
For many of us today, we often look for the OUT so we can step away from the need, rather than looking for any way IN so we can show the tenderness of Jesus and the love of God. Jesus is pulling this mother INTO the Kingdom, but the disciples see her as a hindrance to the Kingdom. How often are we responding differently than Jesus—because we don’t see how God is working or we don’t see the big picture? Often we seem to work AGAINST His mission rather than WITH His mission because it doesn’t fit our particular theological or practical paradigms. So often, our lack of mercy and compassion towards those who don’t look like us or act like us—can be a result of us not:
seeing them as image bearers of God.
seeing them as potential recipients of God’s grace and mercy.
Essentially, we don’t see other races or particular people in different social or economic classes as redeemable. It’s as if we put limits on the plan of redemption that aren’t limits at all, but rather opportunities for us to see God flex His compassion and saving power through our response and reaction.
He will help us.
My desire is that the Spirit of God would work in our hearts in such a way that we respond as Jesus would respond and that this would happen more consistently. This is what I need. This is what our churches need. This is what our communities and neighborhoods and cities need. God will help us. I know that He will. After all, He helped His disciples with this.