The Hand of Compassion

“Come, you who are blessed  by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes, and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Then, the righteous will answer him, ” Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?

The King will reply, ” I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

This past week, I was given the opportunity to tag along with a group of pastors to El Salvador.

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I have spent the last week in schools, churches, a home for the elderly, and in a refugee camp, handing out food, extending a hand of compassion, and showing others Jesus.

For any of you who know me, know that I believe I have been called to “Go” and be the  hands and feet, the words and the touch of Jesus in Countries other than my own.  I have been praying and wrestling with what this looks like for me, and how to prepare for the life Christ has created me for, asking him to give me his heartbeat for his people, seeing others through his eyes, instead of through my own.

This week, Christ has allowed me to view a simple snapshot of just that, and I am overwhelmed.

It’s funny when you enter into someone else’s world, and live for a second in their shoes, when you allow them to share a bit of their story with you, and you in turn, share with them the hope that is only found in Jesus, how other things just don’t matter quite as much anymore; your perspectives begin to change.  Sharing Jesus with others, helping them discover hope and life, and showing the a glimpse of the immense love their Creator has for them, watching them come alive in that moment, makes almost everything else obsolete.

…The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.  James 4:11

In El Salvador, I met numerous beautiful people, all of different ages and circumstances, living with extreme uncertainty; each with a story, each easily overlooked.  From the elderly woman knitting hats to pay for her daily medicine, to the little girl whose parents cannot afford to send her to school, so she simply goes, and waits outside the school hoping to learn from afar, hoping to be fed, I found people desperate to be seen, and desperate to be loved, desperate for hope.  As I began my feeble attempts to communicate with others (my Spanish is less than mediocre, at best), the stories of individuals began to unfold.  If I would have simply kept walking, I would have just assumed the elderly woman knitted simply to pass the time, and I would have just assumed the little girl simply forgot her school uniform, and was too shy to simply come into the school assembly.  Instead, the effort was made, on my part first, to approach, to connect, to listen, and then to pray.

What good is it my brothers, if a man claims to have faith, but has no deeds?  Can such a faith save him?  Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  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?  In the same way, faith by itself if it is not accompanied by action, is dead… a person is justified by what he does and not just faith alone.

As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. James 2

Sitting at home, reflecting on what God has done in me, through me, and around me the past couple of days, I find myself asking a rather scary, yet legitimate question.  What holds me back from reaching out to the “inconvenient lost” here?  Why do I pretend that there is no need at home?  What makes me overlook people here?  What holds me back from looking people deep in their eyes, meeting them where they are, and simply extending the hand of compassion here?   That is something I must wrestle with.  Those are questions I must answer.  It’s crucial that I move beyond my selfishness and into the selflessness of Christ.  It’s there, and only there, that lives are restored, futures are discovered, and love and hope are found.

My prayer is simply that I would learn to hear the voice of God clearly, and that I would learn to immediately say yes to what He is asking of me.  I long to be one who does not see others through the viewpoint of human imperfection. I yearn for a shift of my paradigm, to see others as Christ sees them–perfect, and whole–through the eyes of perfect, selfless love.  I desire to be one who is unseen; one who is transparent, whose life points to the love and grace of Jesus Christ, rather than on my own comfort and gain.

I pray that I would continue to learn what it means to effectively be the hands and feet, the voice and the touch, the heartbeat of Jesus no matter where I am, regardless of circumstance, culture, and feelings; that I would go where he goes, say what he  says, and be what he wants me to be.  May I learn to extend a hand of compassion to others, while offering them the life giving power of Jesus Christ.  For He is the only thing worth living for.

Listen, my dear brothers:  Has God not chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom of he promised to those who love him?  James 2:5

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