Tag Archives: Selfishness

Compassion: The Missing Link in the Church

Jesus-Cristo-e-os-judeus-1As an American society, we have allowed our fears to take control of how we think, act, and who we will elect to leadership in this country. We are so afraid we will lose our jobs and our socio-economic standard of living if we don’t  stop illegal immigration that we no longer see the desperate plight of men, women, and children willing to die for a chance to improve their living conditions in this country. We so are terrified by the terrorist that we are willing to turn our backs on those who are helpless and hopeless in their flight from war, persecution, and famine. We are attempting to insulate ourselves from these real situations by ignoring the faces of those people, demonizing them, and then despising them because they don’t act, think, or worship like we supposedly do. Add to this, the outrageous promises of the politicians and it only reveals what the majority seem to believe anyway.

So—what about the church? Does she think the same way? The church is the thermostat. As the church goes—so goes our nation. What about individual Christians? As individual Christians go—so goes the church. By the way, unless you are 100% Native American, you are an immigrant—no matter how long your family has been in this country. Somewhere in your family tree is an ancestor who crossed the Atlantic or the Pacific, or the Rio Grande.

Something is missing that once made this country different and once made the church a champion of the downtrodden. That missing link is compassion. We seem to have become a compassionless people who are willing to govern themselves with compassionless governments that make and enforce compassionless laws. Our hearts seem all of a sudden to have grown cold and callous.

What is compassion anyway? Compassion is a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune and accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate suffering. Compassion is different from pity. Pity feels but does not act—compassion does both.

It seems that the church has reverted back to the old fears, prejudices, and intolerances of the lost world and now lives guided only by fear and self-survival. Or—has the world simply picked up its attitude and its actions from the church and started living them out. There seems to be little difference when it comes to the subject of compassion. Both groups seem indistinguishable from the other.

Jesus never acted out of fear. Survival never found a place on his daily “to-do” list. No, Jesus acted out of compassion. His entrance into the world was the act of a compassionate God. He came to seek and to save those who were helpless and hopeless. He was driven by compassion and his actions resulted in him dying for our sins. But his resurrection insured that we could live with the same compassionate intensity he displayed every day as he ministered. His compassion set the demonized free, gave new legs to the cripples, new eyes to the blind, healed the lepers and the diseased, and raised the dead. Read your Bible, it was compassion that focused his love and grace to meet human needs and suffering. His compassion produced an atmosphere pregnant with the possibilities for miracles. Genuine miracles by God are always fueled by compassion.

Where’s yours? Are you willing to see past the politics, the angry rhetoric, the spewing froth of fear, and the overwhelming needs—to see the people? Jesus saw the person! He looked in their eyes and did not turn his head.

Will you?

Or will you look away, close your eyes, or change the channel when the pictures of lifeless Syrian refugees wash up on the shores of Greece or the dead bodies of illegal Hispanic immigrants who lie scattered in the mesquite thickets of Texas and Arizona, clutching empty plastic water bottles in one hand and a plastic sack containing all their worldly possessions in the other. Jesus looked and he acted.

Will you?

Pity is not enough. Compassion demands the church respond. If she does not—this nation will not. But if she does—God will empower her with what she needs to do what he would do. But first we must once again regain what we have lost—our compassion, the missing link that makes us like Christ.



On Labor Day weekend, I took a little time to wet a hook in the Warrior River and try my skill at fishing. As I mentioned, fishing relaxes me and when I catch something it’s just icing on the cake.

I baited my hook and tossed it in the water. It barely had time to sink and under my cork went. After a short fight I landed a two pound catfish. Carefully, I reached down to grab the fish just in front of his top fin and his two side fins. Nothing hurts more and ruins a good day of fishing than a catfish fin in the hand. You can’t really blame the catfish, but just the same a little care keeps you from the painful skewering of a fish fin.

Now once I put the grip on the fish, I proceeded to the removal of the hook for its mouth. It was a little difficult due to the catfish’s lip being so tough. I worked the hook back and forth carefully to remove the hook because I am into catch and release. If you catch and release you don’t have to clean fish. I didn’t realize that in my exuberance to get the hook out with my right hand, I was squeezing the catfish with my left one. If you squeeze a catfish too hard it will…how can I say this—poop on you. I know you were probably not expecting me to say that—with most of my blogs being spiritual and all that, but it is what it is!

I was unaware of what had happened until I pitched the catfish back into the river. And then to my horror I saw the catfish poop on my shorts and worst of all, on my favorite tee-shirt—the faded, soft tangerine colored Key West one. There I stood on the pier with dark colored fish stuff dripping down my shirt and shorts.

What did you do—you might be wondering? What every fisherman would do, I scooped up a handful of river water and washed the fish fecal material off my clothes and proceeded to bait the hook for another cast. Heck…the catfish are biting!

Later the next day when I returned home, I squirted some stain remover on my tee shirt and washed it. When I took it out the stain was still there. I did the same thing again with the same result. So, I went to the next level and saturated it with a Clorox concoction my wife makes up and let it sit for several days. At this point I’m not sure the fish poop stain will ever come out, but my fingers are crossed.

I have learned a lesson—not about fishing but about life. When you get squeezed hard enough—when the pressure is on—something is bound to come out. Whatever is on the inside will always ooze out. We may pretend to be this or that, but when pressed hard enough by a situation of circumstance—who we really are comes to the forefront. We may try to hide it but it will eventually surface.

That’s why God is conforming us into the image of Christ from the inside out. He’s pressing us into the mold of Jesus Christ (that’s what conform means), and everything that’s not like Christ gets squeezed out. It squirts everywhere and often it is embarrassing because we were unaware of the mess still hiding within our hearts. Hopefully at some point, when the pressure is on, Christ will gush out and the conforming process will be complete.

But until that day dawns, be prepared to clean up the mess. Like that fish poop, a harsh word, an angry reaction, or a bad attitude can leave stains on those around us that are extremely hard to remove regardless of how diligent you are or how much time passes. Hopefully the next time you find yourself in a squeeze, you will remember this little fish poop story and be careful with your aim.

The Forgiveness Factor (Part 12)

Over the last few weeks we have been on a journey to reach a destination where each of us can willingly offer true forgiveness to anyone for absolutely anything that has been done to us. That’s what God expects, as well as demands. Unforgiveness slowly destroys our soul from the inside out like an insidious cancer. It slowly poisons us and everything around us over time if we refuse to face it and deal with it.

I find that an illustration now and then communicates the point far better than a myriad of words. Unforgiveness is like finding a fifty gallon drum of radioactive waste from the local nuclear reactor sitting in your driveway. The metal drum is clearly marked with a hazardous waste symbol, as well as a skull and cross bones for good measure. It is labeled radioactive waste in big red letters. There is no wondering about what is in this deadly container, and it is sitting smack-dab in the middle of your property.

What would you do? Most of people would call the local police and the hazardous waste material clean-up team immediately and allow them to deal with it. In a real sense, that’s what happens when we choose to forgive someone for offending or hurting us. We deal with it quickly.

But—there is another option. We could act like that barrel of toxin is not there and promptly get out the hand-trucks and move it out back into the little barn on the back-side of our property. After carefully hiding it an out-of-the-way corner, we shut the door, nail it shut, put a chain and lock on the door, and for good measure hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign above the door. For a short period of time we check it every day to make sure no one has disturbed it, but over time we forget about it. Over time the moisture in the soil reacts with the metal drum and rust slowly eats away at the drum until a tiny hole appears. Systematically, the radioactive material slowly seeps into the soil and kills everything in the barn. This fatal contamination cannot be contained by locks, chains, and signs—so it soon kills everything our yard. Ultimately, it kills everyone in our house, including us. The same thing is happening right now in your soul if unforgiveness is present.

The venom of unforgiveness must be dealt with. It cannot be ignored if you desire to be spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthy. You cannot hide it—it will eventually seep out and show up in everything. It will destroy you by destroying everything that means anything to you first.

Call G-O-D-9-1-1 and get help now!

The Forgiveness Factor (Part 11)

The key to forgiveness is Jesus. If you remember, we said that forgiveness always costs the one who does the forgiving. It is given freely, but it costs the one who offers it everything. For you and me to comprehend God’s forgiveness of us, we must truly grasp the price he paid.

Like the servant who owed an incalculable debt, we must first own our debt. We did not just mess up—we sinned. And sin demands retribution. The problem is we can’t make the payment. Jesus paid the debt we owed for the offenses we have committed.

Our dilemma is we often forget the price Jesus paid and the pain he endured to purchase our forgiveness. He was beaten unmercifully before he was crucified. He was punched in the face. His beard was pulled out. He was spit on. He was kicked with boots and punched unmercifully with the butt of a spear when he fell. He was dropped twenty feet through a hole onto the stone floor of a prison cell under the high priest’s house. He was slapped unmercifully in the face over and over. Then, Jesus was flogged with a rawhide whip tipped with shards of glass, bone, and lead that literally ripped his flesh away. By the way, you can forget that forty lash less-one stuff—he was condemned to die and that rule was suspended for those doomed to die on a cross.

Isaiah 52:14 tells us that “his appearance was marred more than any man and his form more than the sons of men…” Jesus was beaten so badly that he was unrecognizable to those who knew him the best. In fact, he was beaten so severely you couldn’t tell if he was male or female. The flogging was brutal—far, far beyond inhumane. It’s cruelty was demonically inspired.

Then Jesus was forced to carry his own cross from the Fortress Antonio up to Skull Hill (Golgotha) outside Jerusalem’s gates. There the soldiers stretched his arms and legs out and nailed him to a cross and stood it up and let it fall into a hole. And there he hung in unspeakable pain. The victim of crucifixion slowly suffocated as his lungs filled with fluid. To get a breath, he was forced to push up on the nail driven through his feet. The pain was excruciating and that position could only be held for a few seconds. Over and over for six long hours Jesus did this for you and me until he took his last breath, gave up his spirit, and died.

Why? So you and I could enjoy forgiveness for our sins. Forgiveness is freely given and freely received, but it cost Jesus everything. Remember—the one who offers forgiveness assumes the loss and endures the cost, while the guilty one—the perpetrator of the offense—is released and forgiven.

This is what Jesus did for you and for me. This is the forgiveness that erased your sin debt off the books and granted you freedom from an eternity in hell. This is the level of forgiveness all of us have received because God—like the master of the servant—felt compassion for us. In his great love, he substituted his Son for us.

So here’s the deal. Let me get this straight…”and you can’t forgive another person because….what”?

The issue is not that you can’t forgive. No, it is that you refuse to give another what has been freely given to you. If you will not forgive—it means you really don’t have a clue what Jesus did on the cross for you!  

The Forgiveness Factor (Part 10)

Jesus was a master story teller. He often used stories with details that were so far-fetched that his audience could not miss the lesson he was communicating. Two thousand years later we sometimes miss the obvious point of the story either because we don’t understand the elements he was describing or we get fixated on a meaningless element and try to make a doctrine out of it. Some of his tales were parables intended to communicate one simple truth, while others were intricate accounts with numerous elements to illustrate his teaching. Those who listened understood the apparent.

Jesus once told a story about forgiveness in Matthew 18 that will help us understand the condition we find ourselves in and how far God went in extending grace to us. The story revolves around two characters—a king and a servant. It is likely the servant was the chief tax collector who had contracted to do collections for the king and the time had come to settle up on outstanding accounts. In other words—it was payday! The king represents God and this servant is you and me.

The servant owed the king ten thousand talents of silver. In Jesus day, that was a mind-boggling amount of money. The Romans collected only two hundred talents of silver from the whole Galilean region once a year. This servant owed fifty times that. One denarii was a day’s wage and one talent equaled six thousand denarii. It would have taken this servant sixty million days—over one hundred and sixty-four thousand years working seven days a week every day to earn the money he needed to pay back his master. He owed big money—so big, he could never have paid back the debt. Everyone in the crowd recognized point Jesus was making.

We all owe God the same debt. If we were to work our sin debt off it would take an eternity in hell to do so. An eternity is forever and ever and ever—with zeros that never stop coming. The servant was in helpless and hopeless condition and so were we apart from Jesus Christ.

When confronted the servant fell on his face and cried out for mercy. He asked for more time. The king felt compassion. His heart was moved with great affection for the servant and his plight, even though his debt was enormous. The king then did two things—he released him from the debt and forgave him for the debt. This servant no longer had the responsibility of paying back the debt—no strings attached. Then the king pardoned him as though he never had a debt. He walked out of that meeting as though he had never owed the king a cent. This servant received total forgiveness.

That is exactly what God did through Jesus Christ. When we were born again—born from above—our sin debt was canceled—wiped away in one stroke. We were released from the penalty of hell and forgiven so completely that God no longer remembers it against us.

That is what total forgiveness looks like. That’s what you received the moment Christ became your Lord and Savior. One stroke and your slate of debt was wiped clean. The question then begs to be asked—if this is what you received when you did not deserve it, why can you not now find it in your heart to forgive in like manner?

The Forgiveness Factor (Part 7)

It was never God’s plan for people to hurt one another, but our sinfulness changed all that. We do have choices. Choice, or the ability to use our personal will, is a gift from God, given so that we might also have the ability to love. Love is an act of the will. It can never be coerced; it is always a choice. So, for each of us, forgiveness is a choice—an opportunity to show God how much we love him. Sadly, many choose not to forgive, and in doing so, they open the proverbial Pandora’s Box that releases the curse that perpetually escorts unforgiveness where ever it goes.

Curse, what curse? Direct disobedience of God’s commandments opens a person up to the direct attack of the devil. Salvation destroys the chains of bondage, but when you refuse to forgive, thinking you will somehow get even, get justice, or see that other person hurt like you hurt, you re-forge the chains of a bondage called unforgiveness. You may think you have that person right where you want them, but you are the only person behind the eight ball of bondage.

Hurt quickly turns into anger, and anger turned inward becomes the poison of revenge, wrath, and murder that screams “I want justice! I want them to pay for what they’ve done to me! I want them to hurt like I hurt or feel the way I feel!—I! I! I! Something is terribly wrong when “I” becomes the center of one’s world and revenge becomes one’s supreme purpose for existence. The reality is that no one can feel precisely what you feel and no one will hurt in exactly the same way you are hurting. What you desperately desire in unforgiveness is therefore not even possible. Yet…you refuse to let it go. Can you feel the cold dead weight of those chains of unforgiveness as they envelope you in their hellish power? The curse has been loosed.

That seed of anger soon turns into a root of bitterness that will, in a short time, produce all kinds of toxic fruit in your spirit, soul, and body. According to the apostle Paul in Hebrews 12:15, this root of bitterness causes us to fall short of God’s grace, while defiling us at the same time. We step back under the curse of sin, rather than experience the full blessing of salvation. (No, we don’t lose our salvation, but neither do we enjoy its benefits.) That root spreads like a cancer sucking the life’s blood out a person throughout your heart and soul. And, whatever is in your heart comes forth in your life. The root soon becomes a fatal fruit tree producing the putrid fruit of death in your ability to love, to feel, to make right choices, to have intimacy, to build relationships, and to be a parent, a spouse, or a friend

The bitterness—that need to get even—produces a rot, whose venom is deadly to every part of your being. It paralyzes and pollutes your personality, your emotions, and turns you into something you were never designed to become. It’s like a super-charged staph infection running wild inside your body. Yet…on the outside you smile and act as though nothing is wrong.

That hidden wound in your soul and spirit coupled with your refusal to forgive (this refusal, by the way, is called sin) creates a darkness within you that has a specific smell that invites even more destructive forces into this scenario you call you.

Now the curse starts picking up both steam and speed. But…the worse is still yet to come.

The Forgiveness Factor (Part 4)

The prison of unforgiveness…the eternal Alcatraz

“To err is human, to forgive divine.” This statement by Alexander Pope, an 18th century poet, is a masterpiece of pure truth, a mouthful of potent wisdom, and a maxim to practically consider. As human beings, we all err. We all fail miserably from time to time in our interpersonal and social skills. We have all said things we should not have said or not spoken up when we should have. We have all done or not done things that hurt other people, if not on a physical level, then most assuredly on an emotional one. It is inevitable that all of us at some point will hurt or offend another person.

Why? Hurting people hurt people, and we are all hurting in some way or other. None of us is exempt. We are like porcupines who wander around their neighborhoods piercing the hearts and souls of those we bump into on this journey called life. We are at best offensive, and at worst, quite deadly. We all have the same problem—we want what we want when we want it and how we want it. We are selfish and selfish people always think of themselves first. Selfishness has a way of leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

There are two categories of people who hurt other people: those who don’t know or are unaware, and those who don’t care. Sure there are accidents, but more often than not if you’ve been hurt or offended, it was by someone with no clue that they had hurt you or someone who could care less. The offending or wounding act or word may have been on purpose or accidental. It might be known or unknown. Or it could be a one-time event or a continual pattern of behavior. Regardless of the reason, the emotional pain is real and it often leaves a deep gash in our soul.

Therefore forgiveness is one of the fundamental tools each of us must have in the trays of our social, emotional, and spiritual tool box. Without it, we are doomed to an existence of bitterness, fueled by an unrelenting need to get even. And to make matters worse, when we refuse to forgive, we build a prison cell, move into that cell, lock the door, and drop the key in our own pocket. We cease to live in the now, choosing instead to repeat the moment of the wounding or offence over and over. The past becomes our present and robs us of our future.

Prison cells are cramp and uncomfortable. They were never meant to be a place to build a life in. They are places of punishment—places where the person in the cell is shut off from everyone and everything. Unforgiveness is a life sentence no judge can or will commute. Even God will not force his way into that cell—no matter how long, how hard, how many times you invite him, or what you promise to give up in return for his healing. Healing never comes to one who has imprisoned themself in the cell of unforgiveness. That cell might as well be located in the bowels of Alcatraz, because you have about as much chance of escaping with unforgiveness in your heart as you do of swimming the San Francisco channel with concrete blocks on your feet. You may carry unforgiveness into the cell with you, but you will never leave that cell if you attempt an escape with it as your companion.