Prophetic Sermon - Compassion

by Hannah Tompkins

“I’m fully convinced that the greatest thing you can do for someone; the most Jesus-like, most God-honoring thing, is to err on the side of loving them.”

John Pavlovitz, Something in the Place of Love

The majority of the prophetic books of the Bible are plagued with warnings of destruction, chaos, death, and overall ruin. From the prophets pleading for the people of God to turn towards Him, to God simply letting go of the people he had held so closely, the prophetic books are filled with these ideas of destruction and shame.

However, within all the sorrow and ruin that would come, we see a glimpse of something that is found in the “lesser” parts of society. Throughout all nations of this time and our own, there is a distinct social breakdown. The Priests of false gods and the rich of this world led the charge through sin. Amos is filled with rightful anger towards the rich, who do nothing while their own people starve, are taken into slavery, and are killed. Amos 5 encourages the people to “seek evil and love good” so that “justice can roll down like a river” in the desert of sinful people. But nothing changes. The rich lay in their beds while the poor starve. There is a direct and harmful lack of compassion shown throughout all the prophetic books. Psalm 10 shows us the great compassion that the Lord has on his people, especially the forgotten, the fatherless, and the oppressed. In a culture where the weak were forgotten, the Lord gives “justice to the oppressed.” In a culture where orphans are trampled under the feet of the wealthy, the Lord becomes the “helper of the fatherless.” The only one who had the right to express his power over us all chose to become the only one who would look upon the weak.

Christ showed up and forgave the sins that shouldn’t be forgiven. He sat with the orphan, the widow, the slave, the tax collector. He loved the unlovable just as he loved his own. Instead of destroying the Israelites when they defiled his message, he denied the temptation to use his power to completely change the world, completely unlike the powers of this time. He did not massacre -- he met, he loved, he judged justly. Instead of being the Christ our world wanted him to be, he was less religious, less of a genocidal maniac, less sectarian, and less like you and me. Instead of killing his enemies, he died to make them his own.

Our turn.

Isaiah 21:14 gives us two simple instructions: bring water to the thirsty. Meet the fugitive with bread.

Bring water to the thirsty. This may seem irrelevant in our first world upper class life we live. Water is free. Anyone can get water here. But it isn’t about the water. It’s about putting yourself in a position of compassion so as to bring someone closer to you, and ultimately closer to Christ. If we have the ability to love with actions and in truth over our haughty words and our speech, then what are we doing? 1 John 3:18 encourages us, children of God, to not love only with words and speech, but with actions and in truth.

Jesus doesn’t care about your new designer bag or how you greet people on Sunday morning. Jesus cares that we are literally allowing our nation to kill children and allowing slavery a place to thrive. Jesus weeps for the small child who died with no chance to live. Jesus weeps for the immigrant who is ushered away because he is a threat. Jesus weeps for the families in need of aid and asylum who have walked thousands of miles for shelter and safety, only to be met by blind hatred worse than that from which they fled.

Jesus weeps for us, who rush to buy the next hot item, with no care in the world that evil is being done in the name of our “freedom,” while we pretend to celebrate the God who did the opposite, who urged us to treat immigrants as our own, who was brown-skinned, who called upon us to love one another as he loved us, to love thy neighbor, to show mercy and justice to the world, to be the light of the world. We have forsaken him. Jesus never said:

“Feed the hungry only if they can pay you back.”
“Clothe the naked only if they’re from your country.”
“Welcome the stranger only if there’s zero risk to yourself.”
“Help the poor only when it's convenient for your busy schedule.”
“Love your neighbor only if they look like you.”
Jesus was the immigrant
Jesus was the child
Jesus was the caravan
What are we doing?

The second instruction found in Isaiah 21 is to meet the fugitive with bread.

Compassion, at its base Latin meaning, is simply to suffer with. We may never understand what it’s like to flee the very nation we grew up in, but we can suffer with those who have. That is what this instruction is all about. Meeting. This is an action word that has no restraints on it. This is a command that must actively be lived out. This is a word of suffering with. Like I said earlier, Jesus never said to welcome the stranger only if you are totally risk free. In fact, his word says the opposite. We are encouraged to run to the enemy and embrace them with open arms of love, to show them compassion, to suffer with them. This does not mean intentionally throwing yourself in harms way, but it definitely doesn’t mean you should avoid it either, if that is how you can show Christ’s love.

America and nations all over the world are great at protecting those who are inside, who are one of us, who look like us. But, what about the child who dies at our border, the widow who just stepped off the plane and now has nowhere to go? Little steps like loving the outcast can lead to something powerful. Praise God for that one time you gave your food to the homeless! Praise God for that one time you went to a food pantry! Praise God for that one time you babysat for a struggling mother! Because you are starting something. A revelation must happen. We must rebel in order show the reckless and radical love of Christ. The command found throughout the bible of “loving thy neighbor as thyself” is so often looked at and seen as good and beautiful. But how do we live it out? We all tend to gravitate towards those similar to us, we’re human. But who is your neighbor?

Love thy neighbor
Thy homeless neighbor
Thy muslim neighbor
Thy black neighbor
Thy gay neighbor
Thy immigrant neighbor
Thy Christian neighbor
Thy jewish neighbor
Thy addicted neighbor
Thy atheist neighbor.
Love thy neighbor as thyself.

We so often forget forget our privilege, and our blindness so often comes from that forgotten truth. If you and I are not starving for justice and compassion in this world, it is because we are stuffed full of privilege. If you and I are not weeping for our neighbor, it is because we laugh at our success. I am not saying that privilege or joy are in and of themselves sinful or wrong, I praise God that I live in a good home and come to an amazing school, but privilege can deceive you, and it has deceived me. I’ve gone on missions trips, gone to serve at a special needs camp, and it changed my life just as it has changed the lives of so many others. The total culture shock that I felt when I was put in both of these places shook my faith. I had always been the good christian girl, the one whose parents led sunday school and mentored so many people. But after being shown the depravity of others that my secluded life of privilege hid, I was changed. I became more emotional, if that was even possible, I started to care more, to pray more, to love more. I pray that each one of you can be put in a position where you are totally in the sadness and depravity of this world, because from there you will find true joy. The freed slaves with scars on their face from whips changed me, because they loved differently. The mute child who only wanted to sit at yell understood pain, but had so much faith. They weren’t always happy, they were joyful. They weren’t always kind, but they always cared. Just when how the haughty laughed while the weak starved, I had been subconsciously living my pointless life while some children with faith bigger than my privilege were enslaved. My own privilege blinded me from reality, and it still does. But I am working towards the life of Jesus-like compassion, love, and joy.

Privilege told me to minimize the pain of others.
Privilege made me feel righteous in my sin.
Privilege told me that my opinion was worth more than another’s humanity.
It lied to me. And its lying to you.
Do not let what has been given to you as a blessing cast a shadow over what you can give to others.

Loving thy neighbor means more than meeting someone where they are. It means washing feet when our world wants to sit in thrones. It means courageously running towards God’s will rather than simply avoiding sin. It means building longer tables when our world wants to build higher walls. Jesus is looking for foot-washers, for enemy-lovers, for Christ-runners, who will show the world his love and compassion. Jesus was very clear:

Food for the hungry
Water for the thirsty
Clothing for the poor
A home for the stranger

Our turn.