Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Compassion on the Multitudes

 By: Rebekah Hargraves

Photo Courtesy of: Dave Lowe

“When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.” ~Mark 6:34

This verse came to mind the other day, and something new stood out to me about it that I had never considered before.

Jesus sees here a multitude of people who were not already believers in Him for salvation - they were “as sheep without a shepherd”. Gather a huge group of those who don’t follow Christ (or even those who do!), and you can imagine all the kinds of sin that would be represented in a group that large! There would be violent people, racist people, selfish people, thieving people, people with different political viewpoints, hateful people, and more.

And what did He do in the face of all this?

He had compassion for them.

It’s not that He didn’t have a sense of right and wrong, absolute truth, or Biblical standards. He did.

It’s that Jesus had a very specific way of doing things when it came to ministering to others. He didn’t beat them over the head with truth, show disgust for their sin struggles, or treat them from a place of anger and disappointment for their wrong beliefs.

In fact, He reserved all of that for the legalistic, arrogant Pharisees and for those doing business in the temple in a way that kept the poor and downtrodden from being able to worship. But for the others? For the sinners, rather than the self-righteous? Yes, He told them to go and sin no more. Of course! But He first forgave them. He first warned the hypocrites against judging them. He first spoke kindly and lovingly to them. He first told a parable about a father who welcomed back his son with love and exuberance before he even knew if his son was coming back in repentance or if he was just back to mooch off him some more.

We even see this theme throughout the rest of the New Testament:

God’s *kindness* leads to our repentance (Romans 2:4).

We are to speak the truth *in love* (Ephesians 4:15).

There are faith, hope, & love, and the greatest of these is *love* (1 Corinthians 13:13).

We are to be *slow to speak* and *quick to listen* (James 1:19-20).

May we go and do just that in this divisive time in which we live. It’s time for us to be the hands & feet of Christ - and that includes in our online discussions, too! 

Reflection Questions:

1) How are you currently living out this call? Do you have compassion for those who sin differently than you do, live differently than you do, believe differently than you do, or look differently than you do? Or do you have disgust in your heart?

2) What is the Holy Spirit saying to you today?

3) What needs to change? What do you need the Spirit to help you with?

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