We all know the Great Commission as outlined in Matthew 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” These are the words of Jesus our Lord and the commandment that we are to go forth. We all can hum the mantra of this commission and roll our eyes as the pastor make a call to give more to missions. But we never really see the “why” when it comes to this verse. I will attempt to discuss that here.
Jesus said something else back in Matthew 9:13 “But go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” We need to learn what the difference between compassion and sacrifice is. I think before we learn what compassion is we should first take a look at sacrifice.
Sacrifice is defined as the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim. The ancient Jews used to sacrifice spotless animals in order to be cleansed of sins. While a spotless animal is prized to look at, to be considered clean before God, was obviously of more value. So the animal was offered as a sacrifice, the owner gave it up. A simple look is that sacrifice is something we give up so that we can gain something better.
Compassion is defined as a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. What do you think of when you think of compassion? We often get images of people in dire straits and feeling bad for them. When we see images of the starving children in countries like Africa, we think it is compassion that we feel sorry for them.
But that is only a part of the idea of compassion. Not only is it a DEEP feeling of sympathy, but notice the second portion of that definition, a STRONG desire to alleviate that suffering. We see the “sponsor a child” ads on TV all the time. They show you children in terrible conditions and tell you a cup of coffee a day can help this kid out. They are hoping to hit some compassionate folks that feel a desire to change the situation of the child and send in their money. Just feeling bad for someone is sympathy. Wanting to do something about it is having compassion. But let us take a look at compassion in the Bible.
Matthew 9:36,38 (36) “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. (38) Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” We see Jesus having compassion for the people because they needed leaders, they were like sheep. But it did not stop there with a “Awww look at them”, Jesus then acted upon that and had a strong desire to do something about it, so he sent forth the disciples.
Matthew 14:14 “When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.” Again we see that Jesus felt compassion and then acted upon it. He saw the people were sick and in need, and He desired to help, and did.
Matthew 15:32 “And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, ‘I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.” Then we see Jesus break the bread and fish and fed over 4000 people. Jesus felt compassion for these people and then acted once again.
Matthew 20:34 “Moved with compassion, Jesus touched….”
Mark 1:41 “Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand….”
Luke 7:13-14 When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her…..(14) And He came and touched the coffin….”
Time and time again we see Jesus having compassion and it being more than just a feeling, it moves Him to action. That is the difference between compassion and sympathy.
But what does all of that have to do with the Great Commission? Colossians 3:12 tells us to “Put on a heart of compassion.” Think about what you have. You are among the saved, nothing this world has to offer you will keep you from God’s Love and the eternity we get to spend in Heaven. What a joyous eternity that will be. Think about your neighbor who does not know Christ. We often think of things that we say we would not wish upon our worst enemy, but yet do not share the Gospel with our neighbor who may be going straight to Hell and yet we like our neighbor. Why?
We give to missions and feel good about helping out people who are helping out others around the world come to know Christ, but we will not share the Gospel with our co-workers and neighbors. We consider our giving to missions as a sacrifice and masquerade it as compassion. We give of our money and act as though that is enough. We excuse our actions with facades of fear, or not being good enough to witness to someone. We say that we are living right so that is our testimony.
Jesus said He would rather see compassion from us, than sacrifice. He would rather see that we feel sorry for the lost so much so that we are willing to actually do something about it. Not someone who just feels a little bad so they sacrifice something in hopes that someone else will use it and do something about the lost. Not once did Jesus command His disciples to simply throw money at the problem. The Great Commission is not “Go ye therefore and sacrifice your income in order to allow compassionate people to spread the word throughout all the land.”
Compassion is a term thrown around and used so often that we miss the true meaning of the word. We are not to feel sorry for the lost and then go about our daily lives hoping we die or the rapture comes. We are to be moved into action to help those that are lost because of the strong feeling of sorrow we feel for them. God desires none to be lost, why is it we seem perfectly Ok with picking who is saved and who is not. We are perfectly happy to put on half of the Armor of God. We tend to leave the sandals that are the Gospel of Peace at home, and the Sword of the Spirit is left on the fireplace mantle.
When was the last time you looked at your lost neighbor and simply thought “He sees that I go to church every Sunday. That is a good testimony for him to learn about Jesus….if he gets curious he will ask”? It was probably quite a while ago wasn’t it? When was the last time you went over to your neighbor and asked him about his salvation? Invited him to church? Told your pastor/visitation team about him so they can visit?