A Reflection on Sunday – Turning Compassion Into Action

This last Sunday Jonathan spoke to us about being a people who put “Compassion Into Action”. This phrase, one of the four Vision Statement phrases we have here at Desert Vineyard and Tehachapi Mountain Vineyard, is an incredibly important one because it highlights the Kingdom invitation to turn belief and conviction into action. There is an immense temptation within our individualistic and consumeristic culture to limit our faith to a matter of personal belief, private ethics or eternal security. However, this seems quite discordant with what the NT emphasizes over and again. Take for example Matthew 21:28-31

28“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ 29 “ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. 30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.

And again, the same emphasis is seen bluntly in James 2:14-19

14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. 19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

Neither of these texts, nor the multitude of others we could point out in this same vein of a faith that is active/manifest, are meant to condemn or guilt us into anything. Rather, they are simply touching on the clear biblical imperative to act on what we believe. Paul is clear in Ephesians 2:8-9 that mankind is saved “through faith…not by works”. Yet, in the very next breath (Ephesians 2:10) he states that “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works…”. These are not opposing ideas, but complimentary. God has shaped and called us as a people to turn our faith into action, to live by what we believe, to follow the challenge oft attributed to St. Francis of Assisi,

“Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.”

So it seems clear from both scripture and the Church Fathers…our faith is intended to be something we are consistently compelled to flesh out through action. Yet, if you’re anything like me, the intentionality to act is something that can fall to the wayside in the crush of daily life and responsibilities. How are we to be faithful to this challenge to turn our faith into action in a way that fits the reality of daily life? One key word for me emerged from the text Jonathan took us through Sunday. He turned our attention to Galatians 2:1-10 where Paul is discussing his meeting with Peter, James and John in Jerusalem to clarify whether he was preaching a gospel consistent with what the leaders of the Jerusalem church were preaching. As they wrapped up their time together discussing all of this, there was confirmation from Peter and the other leaders that Paul was indeed preaching the gospel of the Kingdom and that he should continue doing so. Before they parted ways, however, we’re told that they asked one thing of Paul…

“All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” (Galatians 2:10)

The key word here seems to be “REMEMBER”. As Paul went out to preach the gospel, the leaders of the church urged him to remember to actively lean toward compassion to the poor everywhere he went. Paul identifies that this very thing was what he already felt compelled to do. These Church Fathers had a deep conviction that their faith, and the good news of Jesus that they carried with them, was most powerfully conveyed by putting into action through showing compassion to those in need. Now, you and I will face need around us every day. It is pervasive in our culture and our lives. Whether it be physical needs, emotional needs, social needs, etc. The questions that seems pertinent is ‘Will we see it? Will we recognize it? Will we be willing to turn what we believe into actions that address the needs of others?’ For me, when I’m not thinking about something, it can easily pass me by even if it’s straight in front of me! That key word, “REMEMBER”, seems to be so key to us being obedient to the biblical imperative to act on our faith. Here’s a suggestion…

Each morning take a few minutes to pray and reflect before you launch into your routine. Remind yourself that you are loved by God, invite him to be present to and intimately leading the context of your day, and ask him to help you to REMEMBER just how important active compassion is to him. Ask him to make it equally as important to you! With this intentional lens, we will be more apt to clearly see the need that moves toward us that day. If we’re looking for it, if we’re focused on it, if we remember it…it will stand out in neon when it crosses our path. The Christian Faith has near its very center the imperative to take what we’ve been given and give it away to others. The Lord has been so gracious to those who are willing to see and receive his love. With the compassion we have been shown, we are directed to go amongst our daily life and show it to others.

How might you go out today into your world, and REMEMBER the imperative to actively show compassion to those in need around you? I’m excited to be part of a church that feels compelled to take such a challenge so seriously! Lets do some good this week my friends!

Mike Safford
Tehachapi Mountain Vineyard Pastor