A Healthy Christian is outwardly focused. That means that they are on-mission with Jesus—sharing the love of God to those in their community that don’t know Jesus. You cannot separate Jesus from His mission. It is why He came to earth. He came to be the Savior of the world. That is something only He could do. It is the same with the church. You cannot separate us from our mission. Jesus came to establish the Church so we could be His hands and feet after He left. He commissioned us to do greater things than He did. It is the mission of the church and its people to live the kind of life that Jesus did. We see this mission with three parts: compassion, justice, and sharing the Gospel message.
Be Like Jesus
Jesus was full of compassion:
Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So, pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields” (Matthew 9:35-38). J
Jesus described the kind of ministry He came to do:
When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.’ He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. Then he began to speak to them. “The scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day” (Luke 4:16-21).
This mercy and compassion were expressed in the parable that Jesus shared about the good Samaritan.
Jesus replied with a story: ‘A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. “By chance, a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, “Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.” “Now, which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same” (Luke 10:30-37).
In this parable, Jesus was deliberate in His choice of characters. He purposely chose two religious leaders to be the ones who were not compassionate and a Samaritan, a person from a group that the Jews despised, to be the person who showed the compassion of God.
Why did Jesus tell this story? To correct the misconception that Christianity is to be a religion unto itself, not caring for the rest of the world. It was to wake us up from our apathy and help us see that to be Christ-like we need to be helping those that are hurting on the side of the road in our own neighborhoods. In fact, Jesus was so serious about us helping others that this was the only time Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.” This, however, was not the only time the people of God were told that they were overlooking their mandate in loving those outside their circle. God has always cared for the whole world and has always wanted us to be outwardly focused.
In Isaiah 58, God rebukes His people over their ritual of fasting:
We have fasted before you, they say, and why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it! I will tell you why. It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the LORD? No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. (Isaiah 58:3-7).
This was not an exception. Compassion was part of the Law of Moses. God always intended His people to help those in need. Moses wrote:
If there are any poor Israelites in your towns when you arrive in the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tightfisted toward them. Instead, be generous and lend them whatever they need. Do not be mean-spirited and refuse someone a loan because the year for canceling debts is close at hand. If you refuse to make the loan and the needy person cries out to the Lord, you will be considered guilty of sin. Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do. There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need.” (Deuteronomy 14:7-11).
James described the same responsibility for compassion to the New Testament church:
What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’ but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So, you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. (James 3:14-17).
If we are going to be serious followers of Jesus Christ, we must look beyond our own needs and look to the needs of others around us. We must exhibit the love and compassion of Christ to those outside the church.