Compassion opens space for love to be received

As a pastor, it is sobering to me to see the way the church has struggled to show compassion in an age when compassion is desperately needed.

I understand completely the plight of the Christian man, woman and child who wrestle with the evils of our culture. With unemployment raging and many families living at or below the poverty level, what is the church to do? How are we to respond?

I believe the response of the church, which includes every Christian, can be found in one word: compassion.

In May 1984, the Lord called me to the ministry. The passage the speaker preached was found in Matthew 25:31-46. The premise of this passage is that when the day of judgement comes, we will be judged according to how we responded to “the least of these.” And furthermore, Jesus said that as we did unto “the least of these,” we did unto him.

I know the answer to struggles we face is far more than throwing money and resources at problems. In fact, there is lots of data that indicate money alone breeds entitlement in the beneficiaries and can make it even more difficult for them to overcome issues that have trapped them in such a vulnerable place.

I am thankful that we in central Indiana have a number of different organizations that offer compassionate ministries to people in need. If you are a Christian and live in this community, I want to call you to put compassion into practice. How you do that is certainly a personal decision between you and God. But whether or not you become active in caring for “the least of these,” is more than a suggestion in Scripture; it is a commandment.

Compassion is love in action. In 1 Corinthians 13:3 we read, “… if I give all I have to the poor and have not love, I am nothing.”

This Easter season, I have challenged the people of my congregation to invest in those who are in dire places of life. We are visiting in nursing homes, providing breakfast in soup kitchens, renovating retreat centers that focus on serving children, and continuing to expand our food ministries to the hungry.

What we are doing will not fix the problem. But for those who experience this love in action, there will be a ray of God’s love and light.

Some who read this column will say, “I just don’t have enough to make a difference, so why try?” God does not ask you to give what you do not have. He asks you to give what you do have. If you consider yourself a Christian, then you have Christ in you. And Christ is our hope. “The least of these” often see no hope and no future. But one small gift of compassion can make all the difference.

In Acts 3, Paul and John encounter a man begging at the gate called Beautiful. The man asks for money. The response of Peter is compassionate. Peter says, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you … ”

We, the people of the cross, have Christ. And every place where he is revealed, hope is born.

A single mother called my office last week and asked for a very meager investment of our resources. She was tender in her request. She did not ask for what she did not need. Thankfully we had enough resources to help. On Monday, she called again to say thank you for helping and added one simple request. She asked, “Would you mind just praying for me and my children?” She voiced that just knowing that someone cared was a great blessing.

As the church ponders the amazing sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross, let us also consider how we might make his love come alive in the hearts of others.

May compassion rule in our hearts!

Mark Adcock is the pastor of New Life Christian Fellowship in Fortville. This weekly column is written by local clergy members.