Divine compassion has human implications. Because God is compassionate, He expects His people to be as well. The mercy He has extended to sinners like us should motivate us to be similarly compassionate with others. In fact, Christ commanded us to be compassionate.
Showing mercy to the weak and infirm is the duty of every Christian. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus gave us a direct instruction that stands as a mandate not only for the church but for each individual believer. He said:
When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind and you will be blessed, since they do not have means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. (Luke 14:12–14)
Could that possibly be more clear? I don’t see how.
Jesus is saying that if you are hosting a celebration or a feast, you shouldn’t invite only those who can pay you back by giving you a reciprocal invitation. Invite people who have no capacity to pay you back in any way. If you want to manifest the love and compassion of God, that is the way to do it. True Christlike generosity means showing kindness that can never be repaid.
When you are lavish in giving to someone you know will be bountiful in return, that is not the generosity of God; that is the typical, shallow altruism of human self-interest. Only when you are generous to those who are powerless to reciprocate are you truly showing the generosity of God. And if you really want to enter into the joy of God, there is no better way.
That is a solemn command from Christ. It is a practical mandate that should characterize our relationships with others on a personal level, in the context of our families, and especially in our fellowship with other believers. Let that be the spirit that permeates our dealings with our neighbors.
Now put that command together with everything we have seen about the steadfast love of God; the redemptive purpose of God in showing compassion; the profuse generosity David displayed to Mephibosheth; and (above all) Christ as the ultimate expression of divine compassion, who literally took our weakness and infirmities as His own in order to identify with us.
If all those things illustrate the kind of compassion we’re supposed to show to the weak and disabled in our communities, it seems shockingly, uncomfortably obvious that we as believers in Christ—both collectively and individually—need to do more than we are currently doing to reach out and minister to people in our culture who are disabled, weak, blind, poor, and living in distress. They are often overlooked by the rest of society. They must not be neglected by the church.
The church was not established as a country club or a fraternity house for fit, cool, and stylish people. It is a fellowship of those who recognize their own fallenness and utter helplessness, who have laid hold of Christ for salvation, and whose main business on earth is showing other needy sinners the way of salvation. If we neglect to reach out especially to those who are blind, infirm, or otherwise disabled, then we are simply not being faithful heralds of the tender mercy of Christ.
(Some of the above material will be included in a book scheduled to be released by Ligonier Ministries in late 2016.)
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