In the parable of the good Samaritan, we see how easy it is for religious folks to avoid looking upon the pain of another. Both the Levite and the priest refused to look because they were drained of compassion. The Samaritan, on the other hand, took pity on the hurting person; he saw the man and didn’t look away (see Luke 10:33).
When we look—not glance, but look—we see the person, not the problem. When we look at the person, we see that he or she matters to God and ought to matter to us. When we look, we see a person to be loved, not a problem to be handled. Only when we look can we experience compassion.
When we look, we see a person to be loved, not a problem to be handled.
Being on mission means having open eyes that are looking for the hurting—the married couple living next door struggling with fertility, the frat boy who disguises his alcoholism with the statement, “Hey, this is what college is all about,” the single mother who waits on you at the restaurant even though she has no idea how she and her child will eat tomorrow after her tips buy food tonight.
To open your eyes is to risk losing your life and living with a broken heart for the sake of the lost. As C. S. Lewis reminds us, the alternative to a compassionate heart is a dead heart:
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to be sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.
The motive for mission is compassion. We join Jesus on his mission not because we want to grow our church or because we like to dispense apologetic insights to skeptics or even because we like to hang out with unbelievers. We go on the mission of the Savior because we share the compassionate heart of the one who sees people as sheep without a shepherd.
Excerpt from Church Planter by Darrin Patrick.
Download the sample chapter, "The Heart of Mission: Compassion".