Sermon - Compassion: A Catalyst for Restoration

Subject: Jesus calls us to be compassionate to everyone despite the high costs. Complement: Our compassion is a catalyst for restoring the broken. Central Thesis: Jesus calls us to be compassionate to everyone, despite the high costs, because he desires to restore human brokenness.This sermon is part of a 3-part sermon series I did for Vineyard Leadership Institute.

Compassion: Just Do It

Compassion: A Catalyst for Restoration (This sermon)

Compassion: Unlocking the Power of the Kingdom

Subject: Jesus calls us to be compassionate to everyone despite the high costs.
Complement: Our compassion is a catalyst for restoring the broken.
Central Thesis: Jesus calls us to be compassionate to everyone, despite the high costs, because he desires to restore human brokenness.

Compassion: A Catalyst for Restoration
At about 3:20 a.m. on March 13, 1964, Kitty Genovese, a 28-year-old manager of a bar in Queens, New York, returned to her quiet residential neighborhood, parked her car in a lot adjacent to her apartment building, and began to walk the 30 yards through the lot to her door. Noticing a man at the far end of the lot, she paused. When he started toward her, she turned the other way and tried to reach a police call box half a block away. The man caught and stabbed her. She started screaming that she’d been stabbed, and screaming for help. Lights went on in the apartment building across the street. Windows opened. One man called out, "Let that girl alone!"

The assailant shrugged and walked away. Windows closed and lights went out. The assailant returned and attacked Genovese again. This time she screamed "I’m dying! I’m dying." This time lots more windows opened and lots more lights went on. The assailant walked to his car and drove away, leaving Ms. Genovese to crawl along the street to her apartment building. Somehow, she managed to drag herself inside. The assailant returned a third time, found Genovese on the floor at the foot of her stairs, and finally succeeded in killing her.

During those three separate attacks over the course of 35 minutes, not one of Kitty Genovese’s neighbors tried to intervene. Worse than that, of the more than 30 people who saw at least one of the attacks and heard Genovese’s screams and pleas for help, not one of them called the police.

Interviewed afterward, the residents admitted, "I didn’t want to get involved.” One person said he was too tired to call police, so he went back to bed. Many of them said they’d been afraid to call, even within the safety of their own homes. People all over the nation asked themselves, “What was wrong with those people, anyway?”

Many of you have heard this story before. That incident may be the defining moment of urban apathy in the latter half of the twentieth century. When it happened, many thought the incident was shocking and bizarre… but not typical of the way most people would respond. It was the kind of thing that would only happen in a big city like New York.

Today’s Bible passage tells a similar story. It is found in Luke chapter ten verse twenty-five:

Passage – Luke 10:25-37
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
"What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"

He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'

"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"

The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

Looking for the Legal Loophole:
Before I get into the meat of the parable, I want to briefly cover the situation that brought about this parable. Jesus was under close examination of the legal experts of the day. The lawyers questioned Jesus about eternal life. Like a good rabbi, Jesus answered their question with a question. When the lawyer responded with the correct answer “love your neighbor as yourself”, the lawyer felt the need to JUSTIFY himself (v. 29). Uh oh! There’s a red flag. We humans have a tendency to justify ourselves when we know we’ve done something wrong. The lawyer knew that he had not shown love to his “neighbor”, so he was looking for a legal loophole in Jesus’ definition of neighbor. Jesus turns the tables on their attempt to corner him and he responds back with a parable that redefines their perception of love.

An Inconvenient Truth:
First, compassion can be inconvenient. The first two characters that pass by the half-dead man were the Priest and the Levite. The passage doesn’t specifically say what the Priest and Levite were doing, but tradition says that they were going to perform their priestly duties. If this were the case, this would be a huge inconvenience for the Priest and Levite because contact with a dead body would make them ritually unclean and unable to perform their duties. The religious experts that are listening to this parable would have immediately understood the implications.

Inconvenience is a barrier to compassion. Think back to the story about Kitty Genovese. One of the witnesses to the crime said he was too tired to call the police, so he went back to bed! He found a way to justify his actions. Each of us does the same thing today when we are presented with an opportunity to show compassion. For instance, I’ve excused myself from Servant Evangelism because I didn’t want to wake up early on Saturday mornings. I’ve excused myself pulling over when I witnessed a minor fender bender at midnight because I didn’t want to stick around for an hour to fill out a police report. Sadly, I’ve even excused myself from several opportunities to show compassion without a reason. Apathy begs for an excuse.

Every Human is Your Neighbor:
Second, compassion means loving everyone. When Jesus told this parable, he left out all means of identifying the victim. He did not mention his skin color, his social class, his religion, his sexual orientation, his wealth, or anything. In fact, since he had been stripped naked, we can’t even determine his social class based on his clothes. He was a fellow human being in desperate need.

Often times, though we may not like to admit it, we place conditions on who will receive our compassion. Some will avoid gay and lesbians like the plague because we’re afraid that we’ll condone their behavior by being their friend. We divert our attention away from the homeless person who holds up a sign that says, “Please help me, I’m hungry.” We’ll look at criminals and terrorists with hatred because of their acts of violence. Jesus cut through every excuse. The truth is every human is created in the image of God and they need to be loved.

Bearing the Burden:
Third, compassion is taking upon the burdens of the other person. The NIV translation says the Samaritan “took pity” on the victim. In my opinion, that phrase was poorly translated. The Greek word is Splagchnizomai. Last week, we unpacked the meaning of that word. It boils down to allowing another person’s pain and misery to penetrate our heart. We effectively take their burden from them and make it our burden. This is exactly what the Good Samaritan did. Notice he first gave the victim immediate medical treatment. Second, he placed the man on HIS OWN donkey and brought him into town. Third, he took care of the victim for one night at the inn. Fourth, he paid two silver coins for the innkeeper to take care of him. [Many people don’t know this, but two silver coins is the equivalent of up to two months of care.] Finally, he tops it off by saying he will return to the innkeeper and reimburse him for all expenses over and above what he’s already paid.

This level of commitment is unheard of today. How many times have you heard of a story where someone bears the ENTIRE burden of a stranger in need? Jesus is challenging our perception of mercy by illustrating that mercy flows from a spring that will never dry up. Just when we think there’s no more mercy to be found, there’s more. Many of us would have drawn the line at giving medical treatment and taking him into town. Where would you have drawn the line? How much burden would you be willing to bear?

No Strings Attached:
Fourth, compassion has no strings attached. No one likes it when there’s a catch! Here are three strings that can get attached to our relationships: 1) The Gratitude String. This string has an expectation of appreciation. This string is used to get a “thank you” and to fulfill some kind of unmet emotional need. 2) The Conversion String. This string is attached by people who serve only if they see some indication that a person might be interested in becoming a Christian. They serve for the sole purpose of soul-winning and they could care less about the needs of the people they serve. 3) The Manipulation String. This string is used to control some aspect of a person, such as their money or behavior.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, none of these strings were found. He served without any expectation of gratitude, he showed no interested in converting the victim to his religion, and there was no hint of manipulating the victim’s money or behavior. When freed from all strings, compassion is a beautiful expression of the love of Jesus Christ.

Compassion is a Catalyst for Restoration:
As we look at the compassion of the Good Samaritan, we find a common thread. We see a desire to bring restoration. He saw the need, he felt compassion, and then he sacrificed his time, his energy, and his money to restore a human in desperate need. Compassion is a catalyst for restoration. Compassion ignites our hearts and propels us to become active instruments of God’s love and mercy. Compassion brings healing and hope to those who are broken and in despair.

If we loose our compassion, it’s like salt loosing its saltiness. What good are Christians if they profess to know Jesus Christ, but do not have the compassion of the very Person who saved them? We would become like the world we see around us. A world like the one Kitty Genovese knew all too well as she cried out for someone to help her while her attacker stabbed her to death in full sight of her neighbors.

I challenge you to see the world from a new perspective. Train your eyes to look at people at the grocery store, at the gas station, at restaurants, at the office, in the neighborhood, and the people you see as you drive. Ask the Holy Spirit for divine appointments where you can minister. When God has revealed the person, give yourself permission to be inconvenienced and to be filled with a compassion that is free from any strings. Finally, keep your eyes open to what God is doing and follow his lead. He desires to use each of his children in his redemptive plan.

[tags]Sermon, Thesis, Compassion, Catalyst, Restoration, Kitty Genovese, No Strings Attached, Luke 10:25-37, VLI, Vineyard, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Christianity[/tags]