by Pastor Martha-Jean Fitch
October 23, 2016
TEXT: Luke 10:25-37

One Sunday as they drove home from church, a little girl turned to her mother & said, "Mommy, there's something my Sunday School teacher said that I don't understand." The mother said, "Oh? What is it?"

The little girl replied, "Well, he said that God is bigger than we are. He said God is so big that He could hold the world in His hands. Is that true?" The mother replied, "Yes, that's true, honey."

"But Mommy, he also said that God comes to live inside of us when we accept Jesus as our Savior. Is that true, too?" Again, the mother assured the little girl that what the teacher said was true.

With a puzzled look on her face the little girl asked, "If God is bigger than us & He lives in us, wouldn't He show through?"

Is God showing through in you? Are you thinking and acting and being like Jesus - so much so that people recognize you as one of God's kids - full of love and compassion?

We continue our "Believe Series" today - and we do believe that God is a great God who does hold the world in His hands. We believe that God is a personal God who is involved in and cares about our daily lives. We believe God is love - and He wants us to show His love to our neighbors. As followers of Christ and as children of God, we must have a heart that reflects the heart of God. Our hearts should break for what breaks God's heart. As we follow Christ, our hearts will show compassion to people in need.

All throughout Scripture, we hear about God being compassionate. For example, Psalm 145:8 says - "8The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. 9 The LORD is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made." God's heart is full of compassion and He wants us to have compassion for others.

But what is compassion? The Greek word "compassion", as it is used in the Bible, means "to be moved inwardly - literally in your "gut". The Greek world believed that your intestinal area - the gut - was the seat of emotions. It is where we get the expression - "I had a gut feeling." Compassion is thus a word that describes something that moves us deep within. Someone has defined compassion as "sympathy coupled with a desire to help." We have empathy - and share the feelings of others and then possess a desire to help them in their trouble. We see suffering and pain and we are moved to respond with kindness and mercy.

That's what Jesus did - time and time again; He saw people in need and was moved with compassion. When Jesus saw the blind men, for example, he "had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him" (Matthew 20:34). When He saw groups longing for his teaching, "He had compassion on them and healed their sick" (Matthew 14:14). Christ saw the confusion of the people in the crowd following Him, and "had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd" (Mark 6:34). Jesus' heart was filled with love for His people - and He acted to help them in their need. And that is exactly what Jesus wants us to do as we follow Him.

It has been said that, "You are never more like your Heavenly Father than when you are giving mercy and compassion." Think about that, "You are never more like your heavenly Father than when you are giving out mercy and compassion." Our whole desire in life should be to be like Jesus - to walk in His footsteps. So how can we be like Him in showing compassion? What can we do to show love to our neighbor?

This week's focus Scripture, in our Believe study, is the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Many of us grew up hearing that story and some can even tell the story by heart. But I want us to look at it again, with fresh new eyes - and see how it can apply to our own lives. What I'd like you to do is to look to the screen before you and watch the story unfold as I read it to you. Listen and ask yourself, "Where do I fit in this story?" "How am I a neighbor to others?" "Do I show compassion?"

(((READ Luke 10:25-37, while showing Bible Images)))

As we listened to the story of the Good Samaritan, who are the bad guys in this story? The robbers are for sure, aren't they - the ones who beat the man and left him to die alongside the road. But are there other "bad guys"? Could it be that it was the 2 religious leaders? Those who walked by on the other side and didn't show compassion? Why didn't they show compassion? What were their excuses?

The first one to come along the road was a priest, the most holy of all Jews. He walked on by and didn't show compassion. Why? Well, by law, he couldn't defile himself by coming in contact with a dead person. Even though the man wasn't dead yet, my guess is the priest didn't want to get his robe dirty or take the risk of getting attacked himself. The suffering man just wasn't worth it - and he just didn't want to get involved. Hm-m! Have you ever felt like that?

The second one to come along was a Levite - or a Temple Assistant. He's kind of like an altar boy - someone who helped the priests. Look was this man does. He goes over and looks at the poor man, lying there on the road - and then turns away and does nothing. He doesn't have an excuse for not showing compassion. Rather, he is just apathetic. He doesn't seem to care. He sees the man - but through eyes that were blind to the need - or maybe eyes that were more self-focused than other-focused.

What is interesting is that these two men were two really good Jews - who seemed to think that this injured man was unworthy of their time and effort. We can shake our heads and point out how bad they were - but could it be that we do the same thing from time to time? We deem a person or a group of people not worthy of our time, our money or our efforts...because we end up judging or ignoring, rather than loving and showing compassion.

True compassion is not based on worth - but is based on need. And it is based on giving love and care, like God has reached out to give us love and compassion.

Let's see how the Samaritan showed compassion. First, he "saw him". Look at verse 33. It says, "A despised Samaritan came along and when he saw the man…" You will notice that the priest and the Levite who had walked the road that day, also "saw" the man --- but there was a difference, wasn't there? Have you ever heard the expression, "he looked right past me" or "He looked right through me"? Those people didn't see with eyes of compassion or mercy. Perhaps they saw with eyes of fear or eyes of disgust - or maybe just lack of concern.

And oh, how easy that is to do that ourselves. How many times do we see pictures of children who are dying or examples of extreme poverty and just ignore it or maybe not even be moved by it? Or what about the busy, hectic lives we lead? We can become so caught up in our own dreams and goals - that we only take notice of those who "fit" into our plans. If they don't fit, then we don't take notice of them and we don't think they are important in our lives. But God says everyone is important. Everyone is precious in His eyes. Learning to see others as God sees them is the first step in becoming more compassionate. Beyond what this Good Samaritan saw, he allowed his heart to be moved with a feeling of compassion. Look at the end of verse 33. It says, "When he saw the man, he had compassion for him." He took the time to try and feel what that man was feeling. What would it be like to be walking along a road and be attacked and beaten and left for dead? What would it be like to lie there, yearning for someone to come and help, and yet see people walk by on the other side and ignore you? If you stop and think about how that would feel, hopefully, you would be moved with compassion and would want to do something to help.

But all too often, we aren't moved with compassion, are we? We become hard or bitter because of all the pain we have experienced in our own lives. We think only about how we are the ones who deserve help - not those lazy, good-for-nothings we see on TV. How many times have you heard someone say, "Well, I'm not going to help those kinds of folk because all they want to do is live off of the government?" While it is true that there are some people who take advantage of the goodwill of others - we should not let their irresponsible behavior harden our hearts so that we can no longer be compassionate. Rather, we should always keep our hearts open and pliable, filled with the Holy Spirit and ready to give that same kind of unconditional love to others that He gave to us. God calls us to "come alongside" our neighbors and feel what they are feeling. As Paul says in Romans 12:15: "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep".

To be compassionate, we need to truly see people in need - seeing them as God sees them. And then we need to feel compassion - to allow our hearts to be moved when we "get inside their skin" and feel what they are feeling.

And finally, we need to respond. It is not enough just to see and to feel, we also need to take action. Look at verse 34. Jesus goes into great detail about what lengths this Good Samaritan does to help this man. "He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him." Going on to verse 35, "The next day he took out 2 silver coins, gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.'"

We must get involved to show compassion! The Good Samaritan got involved. He went out of his way, in fact. Not only did he bandage his wounds, he also took him to a hotel. And not only did he take him to a hotel, he paid for his night's stay. And then - he even came back the next day and paid the innkeeper whatever else he owed. We would say "he went above and beyond the call of duty". But Jesus would say that is your call of duty. That is what I want you to do. Be compassionate - be a neighbor to people in need - show my love to people everywhere.

Where do you see this kind of compassion around you today? I see it in our church as we reach out to help people in need - whether it is in collecting food for Fish Food Pantry for the hungry in our community - or people volunteering to feed the kids of our community through our Feed the Kids Program. I see it in people giving of their time to be a role model and help kids read as a Reading Buddy. I see it in people reaching out to help someone who needs a helping hand, a listening ear and an encouraging word.

I see compassion all around us - but I also see it when people reach out to complete strangers who live around the world and show compassion. Like collecting funds for our sister church in Congo, so that they can be compassionate in helping folks get school supplies for their kids. I see it also in our giving to our emergency response and relief ministry called "Week of Compassion". Christians reach out to provide food, clothing, blankets and medicine - as well as financial help to people in need all around the world. Earlier this month we made hygiene kits that were used to help people who were affected by Hurricane Matthew - and Clean-up kits were collected at our Regional Assembly just this weekend, to show compassion to our neighbors who are cleaning up in the aftermath of the hurricane.

And there are SO MANY more examples we could point to. People making a difference - people touching the world with the love and compassion of Jesus. People putting compassion into action.

Some years ago, I heard a story about a young boy living in Paris at the end of World War 2. He was an orphan because of the atrocities committed by the German forces. Now all alone, he had to scrounge around the city as best he could to find food, clothes & shelter.

But nearly everyone was experiencing desperate times, & most people either ignored him or had nothing to give to him.

Years before, he had heard someone talk about God & Jesus. But with the hell on earth that the war had brought into his life, he had long since lost what little faith he once had.

One cold morning, he was wandering down the street, staring into the windows of shops & cafés. He stopped outside the window of a small bakery. The smell of the fresh bread made his stomach ache with pain.

He was so absorbed by the smell & sights of the bakery that he didn't realize an American soldier had come up & was watching him.

The boy hardly noticed it when the G.I. walked past him into the store. He did, however, notice the large bag of rolls, breads, & pastries was purchasing. Imagine his great shock and surprise when the soldier came out of the shop, knelt down & handed him the bag.

He looked at the G.I. with astonishment & gratefulness. Finally, he asked the question that was running through his mind: "Mister, are you Jesus?"

Have you been mistaken for Jesus? Do your actions remind others of what Jesus would do?

May it be that God is showing through us - in all we do and say!