"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." Matthew 9:36 (NIV)
Our van drove snake-like, around tight corners and up steep mountain grades to reach a neighborhood in the hills above Quito, Ecuador. No fresh mountain air greeted us as we stepped carefully on to the streets. Instead the thick smells of garbage, outdoor cooking and animal droppings blanketed us.
Walking through the tin shacks I understood helplessness as I never had before. There was no government support, no food bank down the street. Unless someone stepped into these people's lives with a helping hand, they would stay trapped in poverty.
Something shifted in my heart that day. I had always been committed to missions and evangelism in an academic way. Sadly, however, there was always this secret part of me that thought people could ... no they should ... help themselves.
This experience changed my motivation to reach out. Rather than simple obedience, urgency gripped me. I was starting to understand Jesus' compassion. Was this what He felt like? The disciple Matthew captured Jesus' heart with these words: "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36 NIV).
Jesus saw the helplessness of those He loved. Standing on a dirt street just south of the equator I got it. The helpless cannot help themselves. Just as the lost cannot find their way back on their own. They need someone to step in to their despair, into their darkness, and bring hope and help.
My heart burned with a new understanding. It's not just those broken under the weight of poverty and injustice that Jesus cares about - although He loves them desperately. He cares about all who feel helpless. Like the divorced woman who wonders if anyone will ever love her again. Or the man who can't find a job. And the teenager looking for approval and acceptance in all the wrong places.
These are the lost and helpless living on my street. And they need to hear about the hope that only Jesus can bring.
Jesus gave His disciples an important command before He returned to heaven. He said, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV)
If I close my eyes I can see myself on another dirt road filled with the smell of animals and cooking, and I see Jesus' eyes of compassion staring at me. "Glynnis," He says. "Listen carefully. I'm going back to My Father, and I need you to go to those who are helpless. They don't all look the same, so don't make any assumptions. And you don't have to go everywhere, because I'm going to tell your sisters and brothers the same thing. But I want you to go where I send you."
This command isn't just another Bible verse now. It doesn't go on my to-do list. It's been engraved on my heart. Now I get it.
Dear Lord, forgive me for my lack of mercy. Help me to see the helpless, lost and hurting all around me. I want to have Your heart of compassion, and be willing to go where You send me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Visit Glynnis' blog
for an interview with Lorie Newman, author of A Cup of Cold Water in His Name
.A Cup of Cold Water in His Name
by Lorie NewmanThe Character of God: Understanding His Heart for Us
by Brian T. Anderson & Glynnis Whitwer
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Reflect and Respond:
Read Matthew 28:18-20. This passage is called "The Great Commission." Does this command from Jesus have a high priority in most Christians' lives? Why or why not?
Many Christians read this passage and think about travelling abroad to fulfill it. However, this command starts in our own homes, work places and churches. What changes can you make in your own life to start fulfilling the command of Jesus?
Psalm 91:1-2, "Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'" (NIV)
Luke 19:10, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." (NIV)