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?