Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Bring in the Harvest, Show Compassion

The longer I follow Jesus the greater my sadness becomes for the world we live in. I am sadden because so many people are unaware that there is a better way to live their lives. Pain and sin dominate their lives and they don't even know that there is a problem. So many people in the world believe that this is just the way life is supposed to be and so they cope the best they know how with the life they have been dealt.

Jesus did not turn a blind eye to the needs of people:
Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. He said to his disciples, "The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields." (Matthew 9:35-38; NLT).

No matter how many advances in technology we make people continue to have needs.  These needs have changed little since the time of the New Testament. People still want their lives to have a purpose and to have meaning for their pain. The needs may be a little different, but people are still uncertain where to turn to for help. Casual sex, drug use, and pornography are just some indications that people are in search of some remedy to dull the pain of their hearts.

How should we as followers of Jesus respond to this reality?

It would seem to me that if we are truly interested in following Jesus' example then we first must develop compassion for the lost.  I think that we tend to judge rather than extend mercy.  Many people sin, not because they want to do evil, but because they are addicted to a certain way of life. Peter wrote; "For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver" (1 Peter 1:18; NLT).  People living in the world have inherited an empty way of living, and more than being told that they are sinners, they need to see that there is a better way to live.  They need to experience the abundant life Jesus promised His followers.  Rather than treating them as insolent rebels we need to see them as helpless victims of the evil one.

The second thing we must do in order to influence these people is to be active in their lives. In this passage we notice that Jesus took time to heal people of their sicknesses and to teach them God's truth. Quoting God's Law to people who don't accept God's authority does little good. If they don't recognize Him as having authority they certainly won't obey His Law. The way we bring God's truth into the lives of other people is through our relationship with them. We show them that we love them, and over the road of compassion God's truth travels smoothly.

Finally, if we are going to follow Jesus' example of influence we must pray for workers. We can only do so much and influence so many people. In John 17 Jesus prayed for those people, throughout the centuries, who would carry on His work. We too must pray for people to go before us and to come after us so the harvest is always looked after. Through our prayers we make sure that God's compassion and truth still influences people, even though we may not be directly responsible for it.

Donn Leach in What the Bible Says About Jesus wrote:
“Jesus knows that many are ready to repent if only some messenger bring the good news of the kingdom to them (Matt. 9:37, 38). But more messengers are needed. God can supply more messengers if His people will pray.” 
Prayer is one of the most important things we can do as we seek to influence the world and thus bring about change. People are not changed by our wise words or arguments but the power of God. The power of God is best seen in our love for other people.

The first step in all of this is having compassion for the people of the world, seeing them as Jesus saw them. Jesus not only saw people’s sin, but He also saw their need. He knew that their only hope was love and truth not judgment and law. As we seek to influence the world for Jesus we have to ask ourselves the question: What am I offering people? Truth and love or law and judgment?

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