Yesterday we had a vigorous session on what real compassion is. It was a difficult time.
The room was tense. It appears that this is a topic people are addicted to doing what feels good, not always what does good.
I don't feel good helping someone continue down a path to hell and dissipation. I think that doing so makes he who sees himself as compassionate feel better about him or herself. There's the addiction part.
Do we in being compassionate have any role in judging to whom we should or should NOT be compassionate towards? Or, do we have a responsibility to be compassionate to anyone anywhere for any reason who is in need even if it is by his or her own intent and action that caused them to reach and remain in need? Where is the capacity for discernment? I think we are responsible for our decisions and compassion without judgment is false compassion.
I am concerned about the body of Christ randomly recklessly distributing material "compassion" to anyone even if it has the net effect of being an enablement and never calling anyone to account.
One man who has a great heart had the misfortune of having dealt with a person in what he determines in hindsight to be an uncompassionate manner. That person who he turned out ended up drunk and froze to death under the bridge last winter.
That is tragic. What would be more tragic is if he had never become a Christian and had been warm, dry and well fed headed for hell. It is my understanding that the man who died had a valid faith in God. So, perhaps in his mercy as God often does he was taken early to preserve his soul while allowing his body to perish.
That was a story of victory not defeat.
What isn't a story of victory is a man or woman who learns to work the system, has no intent in coming to faith in Jesus and in the end goes to hell at the end of his days warm and well fed.
If we as a church have real compassion towards a man or woman we must first have compassion on their lost souls. They are sinners on the edge of Hell. Then, hand in hand with sound intense deliverance from the demons possessing them and with discipleship fully part of the compassion, discipleship in helping these needy people to begin making better decisions, to help them find hope, to help them be reconciled to the Father, to help them come to a living faith filled life and begin to be not need needing but need filling.
True compassion is filling true needs.
In our earlier session the question was asked while thinking of the story of the Prodigal son:
Lets suppose that it's now 5 years after the return of the Prodigal from the Pig Pen. He is still living on the farm with his dad and brother. One day they come to recognize that a hired hand working for them is just like the prodigal had been.
Had left home, squandered his money, become homeless, took any job he could find, living in the barn, needy, hopeless and empty.
If the prodigal were to encounter him, what would be his response? If the older brother were to encounter him, what would be his. If the Father were to encounter him.
What they would NOT do is let him move in with them, live free, feed him and clothe him with no accountability.
My guess is yes they would meet short term needs but would quickly be setting about the task of reconciliation, first with his family if he has one, then with society, and then with God.
Feeding and clothing him while he lives in rebellion only delays the needed reconciliation.
So, to my friend who I will link to this, I love your heart, I'm sorry for you pain and guilt. You did right and so did God (by taking him early). I hope you will consider carefully what real Christian compassion really is. I have worked among the poor in the inner city enough to know that poverty is the result of mindsets society has placed on people. The black and Hispanic people of the inner city of Chicago I have worked with are great at discerning who and why anyone does or does not need help.
They are better at it than we are. We have middle class guilt that causes us to think we need to just throw money or help at people when the real need is a changed heart. We could take a lesson from them in true compassion. The ones that do it best do it from a heart of discernment and with an eye towards changing the heart of the person in need rather than making sure they have a place to live or food to eat.
I know one church (all black) on the west side of Chicago that has as it's charter goal that every person who comes in and comes under the roof of their church and is willing to be discipled will get off public aid, become a job giver and a home owner. I have heard the pastor say that he wants to see every one of his formerly welfare receiving congregation become millionaires. They haven't (all) yet.
The result of That ONE church is a tremendous number of spiritually and financially healthy and fulfilled congregation. Everyone is off welfare within a year, most now own their own home and many own businesses. That's discipleship that meets real needs, not compassion that perpetuates the problem.
We should do the same. This promise, you come under out discipleship, long term and your life will change for the better should be our offer that goes with the bowl of soup we give.
I think we have done more to get in the way of people coming to Jesus than we should. Let's stop it.