August 20, 2017

The Facts of Compassion

Matt Recker

FrontLine • January/February 2006

While waiting for a subway train a man stood next to me looking truly grotesque. Huge tumor-like growths protruded from all over his face. Some of these swellings began on his cheek and hung down past his neck. I glanced at his hands and similar fat growths covered them as well. My heart went out to him, so I introduced myself, gave him a gospel tract, and told him that God loved him. As I walked on, the thought hit me: What does God see when He sees him? He was difficult for me to look upon, but does God not look beyond mere appearance to see the heart? And how does God see us? And I wondered at all the beautiful people in our city of New York who may be easy to look upon but are far from God, worldly, proud, lustful, and selfish. I wonder whether God sees their desperately wicked hearts and is sickened yet moved with compassion.

We need to have compassion. The expression “moved with compassion” is a great clue to the entire Christ life (Matt. 9:36; 14:14; Mark 1:41; cf. Luke 7:13). This Greek word is employed by the Gospel writers to express the deepest emotions of Jesus. Compassion feels another’s hurt in my heart, it bears another’s burden upon my back, and it hears another’s groan in my gut. Compassion “approximates the moral equivalent of a physical cardiac arrest” (Douglas R. McLachlan, Reclaiming Authentic Fundamentalism [Independence, MO: American Association of Christian Schools, 1993], p. 74).

True compassion results in action. Compassion is not static and does not lead to inactivity. Compassion is dynamic and points us to powerful assistance. The compassion of Jesus moved Him to love the unlovable and touch the untouchable leper to make him clean (Mark 1:40, 41). It continually motivated Him to teach, preach, and heal (Matt. 9:35, 36). Jesus’ love led Him to insignificant places and unknown people in order to speak with the voice that raised the dead (Luke 7:11–15). The compassion of Jesus moved Him to feed multitudes even when His disciples chided Him to send the irritating yet needy people away (Matt. 14:14–21).

The compassion of Jesus Christ in us is a going force, a speaking force, and an acting force. One evening I went to the hospital to visit Jason. Tubes ran into his mouth and nose. Belts strapped his hands down to keep him from ripping the hoses out. His body was bloated with fluid, and he gasped for air. The irreversible death process had set in as he lay dying of AIDS. I had met Jason out on the Brooklyn streets, and he had briefly attended our church along with his wife and four precious children. But the street life filled with drugs tempted him, deceived him, and finally destroyed him. I wish every person who thinks he can play with sin like a harmless toy could see what I saw. As Jason lay in that hospital bed dying, I pictured how he had frequented some crack house and shot his body full of drugs with dirty needles. While he made such selfish decisions, his family remained home and wondered where he was, unsure whether he would ever return. When I attended his funeral, his family now knew where his body was, and they were left to wonder where his soul may have gone. The reality of knowing Jason continues to motivate me to preach the gospel and to see lives and families rescued from this destiny.

Secondly, true compassion requires a vision. One must get out of the comfortable confines of his house or office in order to see the vast need surrounding us. Jesus sees beyond the outward state of the multitude to examine their true condition. And as He sees, His inner being groans with compassion.

How is your eyesight? If we perceive incorrectly, we will not be moved to compassion. If we see one’s ethnic background, which may be different from ours, we may be intimidated. Perhaps we view a person’s material wealth and are demoralized by thinking he has no need. Or we can observe a person’s outward happiness and are led to think that he is at peace. We must look beyond skin color and realize every individual possesses an eternal soul. We must gaze beyond one’s “stuff” and get a glimpse of his spiritual bankruptcy. We must peer beyond a person’s smile and become conscious that he has sorrows and will one day meet death.

Jesus saw that the multitude was defeated: “they fainted.” They were falling apart amidst the stress and pressure of the daily grind. They were also directionless: “scattered abroad.” They were cast down and thrown aside. Jesus saw them as defenseless: “as sheep having no shepherd.” They were wilting under pressure, wallowing in great perplexity, and wandering without purpose!

Much of Jesus’ compassion for the multitude resulted from the religious leaders of the land who were wicked shepherds. The people were spiritually and emotionally distressed because those who should have taught them only used them. They were mishandled by their shepherds and were therefore wandering defenseless, directionless, and defeated. The shepherds in Israel were hypocrites and blind leaders of the blind. Likewise, our hearts should go out in compassion for the many people deceived by religious systems overrun with traditions that reject God’s salvation by grace alone in Christ alone. We should be moved by the multitudes ensnared in cults that devalue the true deity of our Lord Jesus Christ. We must be moved to compassion by the evolutionists who worship the creation rather than the Creator.

Many in our world today are in lands with no Scripture. Dr. Hantz Bernard, the Director of Bibles International, told me there are 6809 known languages in the world. Of them, only 400 have both an Old and New Testament; 1100 have a New Testament; and 4500 language groups still do not have the Word of God. Without Scripture, they will be as sheep without a shepherd and never know of God’s gift of eternal life.

I read a news story recently telling of a seventeenyear- old high school student who was dropped off by an alleged escort service to the $500,000 home of a fifty-year-old executive. After doing drugs, the girl passed out, and when the man called the escort service to come pick up the girl, they told him to just “pick her up and throw her in the shower.” That is how much her employers cared about her! When the man offered them $4,600 to take her away, they did, and dumped her body on Interstate 95 in New Jersey. The article said it was her first “trick.” And her first trick ended up being her last. We need to have compassion because people are as sheep having no shepherd.

A recent newspaper headline simply read “WASTED.” Two lively college-age girls, the sort who were the life of the party—outgoing, adventurous, fun—were found dead in a lower eastside housing project from drug overdose. These girls became friends at a Roman Catholic high school. They loved punk rock music and had a rebellious streak. Many people think that a little bit of religion is fine. And so is a little bit of punk rock or cocaine. The fact is, a little bit of sin has the power to waste, destroy, and condemn a person to Hell for all eternity. We need to have a vision for those who are lost in sin.

A third fact is compassion realizes a solution. Jesus tells us, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest” (Matt. 9:37, 38). A great harvest field of souls has inestimable value, is in immense danger, and has an immediate need. It is obvious that a few laborers cannot do the work of a great harvest. Many laborers are demanded. Notice that we do not pray, “Lord, the harvest is great, the laborers are too few, so Lord, figure out a way to do the work on Your own!” No, rather our Sovereign God has chosen to involve willing laborers in the work of preaching and seeing a harvest brought home to Heaven. Only common “laborers” are needed. Fancy degrees and titles are not required. We must be willing to get dirty, to sweat, and to work hard. Souls are in great danger if they die without Christ. The Lord is in emergency mode regarding their eternal salvation.

Souls will respond if we speak to them! I went into Spanish Harlem with Ernie Kent, a preacher-in-training who was visiting in my home in New York City. We came to a park bench outside an urban project and two ladies just sat there, Denise and Anita. They received us as if they were waiting for someone to come and talk to them! We challenged them to believe in Christ, and then we prayed with them for God to open up their understanding in order to be saved.

We continued walking in the projects, and coming toward me was a man gaunt and sickly. His haggard face was withered, and his eyes were sunk into his skull like dimming lights. As I spoke to him he told me that he had less than six months to live with his disease. I shared the gospel of God’s righteousness with him, and he wanted to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. We prayed together, and he professed faith in Christ.

The work of the harvest means that there is coming a day of judgment. The great harvest speaks of the coming of the Lord when He will send forth His angels and there will be a great reaping. The tares will be gathered and burned in the fire. All things that offend and that do iniquity will be cast into a furnace of fire, and there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. The righteous shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father (Matt. 13:40–43).

Jesus teaches His disciples to offer sincere prayer for more laborers in the harvest field. In order to pray this authentically, we must be genuinely willing to go. Those disciples, who began praying for more laborers, soon became the preachers for whom they prayed (Matt. 10).

Each of us can be a laborer in the harvest wherever he is. Do not think the harvest is somewhere you are not! The harvest is here and now! You do not need to get into an airplane or go to some far away “mission field” to find the harvest! But we can pray that the Lord will send laborers to where we are not.

Notice that the solution is not mere education, better technology, more money, or stronger schools. The problem of the harvest will not be through a political solution but rather through prayer and a true perspective of the harvest. May God give us a renewed compassion to endure all things for the elect’s sake, for knowing the terror of the Lord we must seek to persuade men, that by all means some may be saved!


Matt Recker pastors Heritage Baptist Church in New York, New York.

(Originally published in FrontLine • January/February 2006. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

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