Do We Really Have Compassion for the Lost?

Do you minister out of a compassionate heart or only for your comfort? In other words, do we seek to reach all of humanity with the gospel message of hope and restoration, or do we avoid those that are deeply troubled and seek out instead the people that are more like ourselves? Jesus’ encounter with a mother and daughter should teach us a lesson about this:

Matthew 15:22–23 (NAS): And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.” But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.”

What did the disciples see in the demon possessed girl? A pest and a nuisance? Just another broken person that would demand more time, energy, and money? I have heard Christians moan when another drunk comes to church. I have seen the faces of “God’s children” when another mentally disturbed person needs more time in prayer and counsel. I have seen the way that too many needs by the poor can begin to irritate a local body, even when those in need are from within the congregation.

Brethren, look at the verses above! We have a mother pleading for her child. See her desperation! What if you were that mother! Do we see that this woman cries out to the “Lord, Son of David” in hope and reverence, or do we see her as the outsider, the “Canaanite?” She is different. She is desperate. And to some, those differences and desperation are off-putting and repulsive. “Let them go somewhere else. We don’t need that here. This is a respectable place.”

Do we see the demonic and want to push it away, or do we see that she is “cruelly demon-possessed” and our hearts are broken for her bondage and we want to see her set free? Do we cast blame, saying that she probably did this to herself, that these are probably the consequences of her poor choices, and so she deserves what she has become? Do we point to this person as an example to our children of what to avoid, instead of pointing out the need for compassionate Christ-like love?

I fear that we can worship the idol of comfort in our churches and not the God of all Comforts who wants to bring peace to people like the demon-possessed woman. Look around the next time you’re at church. Do the people reflect the needs of broken humanity brought to peace in Jesus Christ, or do they reflect the social comfort of being around respectable people? Then ask yourself, are we more like the Lord or like the disciples when we encounter the deeply troubled?

The Lying Allure of Desire

My son, be attentive to my wisdom;
incline your ear to my understanding,
that you may keep discretion,
and your lips may guard knowledge.
For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil,
but in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
sharp as a two-edged sword.
Her feet go down to death;
her steps follow the path to Sheol;
she does not ponder the path of life;
her ways wander, and she does not know it.
” (Proverbs 5:1-6)

Although the context of Proverbs 5 clearly is a father’s warning to his son about the dangers of adultery, there is something more basic here that I think we all need to pay attention to if we are to continue walking in holiness.

This “forbidden woman” aligns not only with the tempter/temptress in the area of sex, but there is also a warning against chasing after anything forbidden. Eve desired the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, and before her, Lucifer sought to take the place of God by seeking to take the glory that belongs to God alone. Man also seeks to steal God’s glory through pride, and we seek to idolize our own desires, placing them above the will and commands of God.

And what should catch our eye in this section of Proverbs 5 is the desirability of the forbidden object that blinds us to the tragic end that comes when we seek after it. The forbidden woman’s lips drip honey—not only desirable, but speaking with sweet words that are entice us to overlook the wickedness in her words. Her speech is described as being smooth like oil, words which rationalize and clear the way for our sin, without which we might be stopped by a sensitive conscience. These “smooth words” give answers to objections, and resistance is overcome with cool reasoning. Like the neurotoxin of a spider’s sting, the desire numbs the conscience, drawing in its victim slowly and carefully so as not to awaken a sense of guilt.

The fruit looks desirable, and it only makes sense to take it, after all, it offers so many advantages—what fool would pass up the delights that are promised? The fruit may take on many forms and flavors, but the fruit and its poison always fools and the same pathway of promises are never kept.

Hidden under the tongue of honey and smooth oil is a dagger. And the fool who follows this path will find they will awaken from their poison-induced stupor when it is too late. The desire has conceived her deadly spawn within the soul of the fool and has birthed sin. And like tiny parasitoid wasp eggs that have hatched, and the larvae awaken to feast on their host, leading to its tortuous death.

Why would we ever chase the forbidden fruit of sin and its desires? Because we are children of Adam and follow in Adam’s footsteps. And the only hope we have of breaking free from this body of sin and death is to place our hope in the One who resisted every temptation to sin and paid for the penalties of our sins committed upon the cross Romans 7:24-25).

The good news is that Christ, the serpent crusher, has won the victory. And as God’s children, we have been set free to walk in holiness and righteousness. One day, the victory will be complete, the serpent will be cast away into eternal fire, and the temptations will all end. Until then, I pray that we would all take the warnings of Scripture seriously and not allow for sin—even baby sin—to find a hiding place in our hearts, any more than we would allow a poisonous spider to nest in our pillow.

The Warm Light of Hope

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

Right now, the world seems very dark. In the US, elections are looming like a dark cloud and whispers of revolution after the election tell us that disruptions will not be over once the election is decided.

The threats of the Coronavirus are once again being touted on the media and communities all over the world are beginning to close again.

Hurricanes have struck the southern Gulf states and wildfires have decimated the West.

Rioting has continued in some areas, and will most likely begin again following the elections on Tuesday. Other parts of the world are feeling the tightening fist of control take advantage of these uncertain days.

Add to these the personal struggles with sickness, joblessness, depression, hunger and poverty, heartbreak, wayward children and those who have run headlong to embrace the darkness, and these days are long and heavy.

A dark, cold winter is coming upon us–something that has nothing to do with the weather outside. A spiritual darkness is over our world and it has settled over the US.

My daily readings in the Bible have brought me to the minor prophets and the book of Revelation. The book of Micah speaks about the fact that most of the prophets were unfaithful, speaking lies to appease the people and to gain a benefit for themselves. And Revelation 10 (my reading today) speaks of the unthinkable judgment that is still in the future for the world.

While the darkness of the world can have an anxiety inducing effect upon those who do not know Jesus Christ as their Savior, it should not have this effect upon the children of God. As Jesus said in Matthew 5 above, we are a light in this dark world, like a city upon a hill that glows with life. We are like a lamp in a dark house that gives light and hope and joy to the home.

Jesus is our hope. The prophets of the Bible didn’t only speak about judgment that was coming for sin, they also spoke of the hope and restoration of a new world for God’s people. This world is not our home. We all need to keep saying this to ourselves as we think about what is happening–This world is not my home!

I’m not speaking about running away, or about an ejection button that allows me to disengage from the world and its darkness and fears. I am saying that this broken world can never give us hope or safety or comfort the way that Jesus Christ does. And while we are here, for as long as Jesus holds off on his return, we ought to be holding out that light to those still in the darkness, longing for hope and seeking desperately for peace.

Hold out your lamp. Call your lost neighbors to the warm glow of knowing Christ. Shine brightly with the hope of the New Jerusalem even amidst the broken misery of the city of man. It is coming and we shall soon see our King. Don’t dwell in fear and don’t lose hope.

Shine the light.