The call to share the gospel is often an intimidating, unsettling thing--even for the most seasoned believers. We know that we should, we know Jesus' words in the Great Commission to "go, make disciples," and yet we still don't. We let fear rule our lives, worrying that we will say something wrong, we won't know the answers, or the listener will respond poorly. We don't want to be pushy, we don't want to make someone uncomfortable. We don't know how to bring it up, we don't feel equipped. The excuses can go on for miles, and I have felt or said every one of them.
(For a reminder of who needs to hear the gospel, read Pastor Keith's recent post: Good People Don't Go to Heaven)
The gospel gives us answers to every one of these excuses, but more than that, the gospel gives us powerful motivation to share the gospel. Jesus shows us the motivation for mission, because it is after all his mission.
Motivated by Compassion
A few weeks ago, Pastor Keith shared a quote from Darrin Patrick's book, Church Planter:
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.
Patrick states that the #1 reason we share the gospel is compassion: "sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others." Where do we find the perfect model of compassion? In Jesus.
It is impossible to read the Gospels without noticing Jesus' care and concern for people. Everywhere he went he met the needs of people around him, healing them, caring for them, raising their loved ones from the dead, providing food when they were hungry. But before he met their needs, he saw their needs. He looked at people cared about what he saw:
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matt 9:35-36)
Over and over again people came to Jesus, broken, hurting, sick, dying, and he felt compassion for them. Not only were they in need of physical healing, Jesus saw that they were slaves to sin, unable to have fellowship with the Father, and far from him. He healed their physical afflictions, but he also healed their spiritual sickness.
When Jesus began his ministry, Luke recounts Jesus essentially giving a summary of his mission on earth:
16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”
20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:18-21
The prophet Isaiah wrote about a coming savior who would heal all of our brokenness and give us freedom from sin and death. As Jesus reads this aloud, he says, "Look! This is why I am here. I have come to meet broken people where they are and give them new life." Jesus' earthly ministry and his work on the cross were driven by his care for the broken condition of his people.
So how does this motivate you and me to join him on his mission? Sure, Jesus was compassionate, but what do I do when I realize I'm not?
Compassion for others begins to well up in our hearts when we remember the compassion Jesus showed to us. The gospel shows us that on our own we are hopelessly, helplessly sinful, enemies with God, unable to save ourselves (Romans 3:10-12, Ephesians 2:1-3). But God does not leave us there. Instead he sends Jesus to live a perfect life, die a horrible death, and raise to life again, defeating the power of sin and death in our lives (Ephesians 2:4-8). When we can do nothing to get to him, he comes all the way to us--doing all of the work and giving us new life.
The gospel frees us to look at the world around us and see their deep need for Jesus. Because we were once far from God and he pursued us, we know what it is to be in need of a savior. When we rehearse the truth of the gospel regularly (I was far from God and he rescued me), we are reminded of how incredible his grace is and how undeserving we are of it. This frees us to look at the people we interact with (at work, school, the grocery store, down the street) and care that they are far from God. That they are without hope and slaves to sin. That without the good news of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, they are hopelessly lost. When we remind ourselves and one another of the need Jesus has met in redeeming us and bringing us back to the Father, we can join him on his mission to rescue and redeem the world.
There is no compassion without action. We can't see the lostness in our city and choose to be silent. We can't believe that we care for people and never tell them about the God who loves them and desires to forgive their sin. Compassion will impel us to bring the good news we have to them, not just treat them well or be nicer to them. We have incredibly good news to share.
Lord, you are indescribably good and merciful. You give grace upon grace to people like me who could never deserve it. Open my eyes to see the incredible grace you have given me, and to see the people around me who still need to know you. Help me to see the truth of the gospel more clearly so that I grow in my care and compassion for the people around me.