17 May: Everyone needs compassion

Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
17 May 2020

Service available on Youtube, or as text (below), or for audio see the Podcasts page.

Welcome

A big thank you to all those who have offered to sponsor me doing 100 Press-Ups to raise money for Barnabas Fund helping persecuted Christians. I’m in training to do them on 31st May 2025 – oops a typing error – should be 2020! – Please pray and remember with God all things are possible!

Worship

CCLI Song # 7018338 Ben Fielding | Matt Crocker © 2014 Hillsong Music Publishing

Word

“So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms round him and kissed him.”

Luke 15:20

These words are from what has been described as: “the greatest short story in the world” (Barclay), ‘The Parable of the Lost Son’ or better still, ’The Parable of the Loving Father.’

Let us remind ourselves of some of the younger son’s situation. He had grown ‘bored’ of staying at home and being under his parents supervision. His elder brother probably wasn’t the easiest person for him to get along with and so he couldn’t wait to leave home and enjoy the immense ‘freedom’ that would bring. In fact, it seems he wanted to get as far away from home as possible, for we are told he “set off for a distant country” (Luke 15:13). ‘Heartless Callousness,’ ‘Conceitedness’ are some of the words that have been used to describe his attitude in approaching his father and demanding his share of the estate, and the word Prodigal describes his recklessness in totally squandering all of his inheritance in wild living. Surely this person is ripe for a good “telling off” (and the rest), if ever he comes back home.

Let’s remind ourselves of a very important Scripture: “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Some versions have: “We love Him because He first loved us” (NKJV). Either way, this is what we pray for – for people to love God, to love one another, and to love all and sundry. But first, before this can happen, they must experience love. How does God love people? One of the main ways is through His people, the Church, and based on 1 John 4:19 this is what must take place first and foremost. Scripture is consistent on his point, e.g.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”

Romans 5:8

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins”

1 John 4:10

So, if while we were prodigals, we first experienced God’s amazing love, it is absolutely imperative that we should love all and sundry, including the Andy’s of this fallen world, (cf. last week), the ‘difficult’ people, the ‘unlovely,’ and yes,  you and me, Amen!

This is what the father does here – The first thing that happened when the father saw his wayward son (who was dead as far as he was concerned), wasn’t to judge and condemn him for his many sins, and for squandering all that he had given him. Rather we read, ”his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him.” Compassion became the guiding factor for all that the father did going forward: “while he [the son], was still a long way off, his father … ran to his son, threw his arms round him and kissed him [lit. kissed him fervently, tenderly, affectionately; the tender kiss of affection].” “This action is the “twist” in the story. No Middle Eastern father would greet or respond to his wayward son this way” (Blomberg).

Note the order, compassion first. Imagine if the father had raced out towards his son with a big stick and started beating him, the son would never have made his confession but would have done an about turn, never to be seen again. The father shows deep compassion and relates to his wayward son with real tenderness, which encouraged the son to say his confession, and to repent. Cf.

“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realising that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”

Romans 2:4

What about the elder brother’s response? Does he have a case under OT law? e.g.

“If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.”

Deuteronomy 21:18-21

In the past I have been a bit strong against the elder brother, as many others have, but now I have more compassion towards him also (as did his own father, for the elder son was now showing rebellion and disrespect towards his father by refusing the father’s invitation to celebrate. Note also the disrespect he showed his father in his response e.g. Luke 15:29: “you never gave me even a … goat” – that’s serious disrespect that!).

“The father’s reply is as gentle as the son’s complaint was harsh. He addresses his son tenderly cf. ‘my child’” (Bock). Cf.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:1

The elder son is stuck in the old ways but his father has surpassed them and is into the new ways of which love is of the essence.

Old woman, young womanThere are two pictures here:
(1) An older woman 
(2 ) A young woman
If we focus on the old woman’s mouth (= the young woman’s necklace), or the tip of the old woman’s nose (= the tip of the young woman’s chin who is looking to her right), or the older woman’s left eye (= the young woman’s left ear) will determine whether we see the old woman or the young woman.

It’s a bit like this with the Old and New Testament. Jesus deals with this in Matthew e.g.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them”

Matt 5:17

R. T. France gives a helpful paraphrase: “Far from wanting to set aside the law and the prophets, it is my role to bring into being that to which they have pointed forward, to carry them into a new era of fulfilment.” In other words Jesus has come so that we may surpass the law: “It is a surpassing or transcending  of  the Law that is the keynote throughout” (R J Banks on Matthew 5:17-48).

This is what the father of the wayward son did. This is what the elder brother didn’t do. This is the message Jesus is trying to get across here in this very vivid and detailed example. This is exactly how our heavenly Father was towards us when we were dead in our transgressions and sins:

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved

Ephesians 2:4-5

And this was why Jesus so often mingled with sinners and tax-collectors and why He was accused of being a friend of sinners (which in the light of what we have been looking at is a compliment!)

“It is the hope of restoring the lost and leading people back to the joy of the Father that causes Jesus to receive sinners and dine with tax collectors (cf. Luke 15:2)” (Bock).

Think of all the people we meet, pass-by, relate to each day [if we can cast our minds back prior to lock-down]. None of us know whether in a week, month, year, few years, many years, whether those same people will have come into the family of God. They will have become our brothers and sisters in the Lord, Hallelujah, Amen! We should therefore look on all whom we meet in that light, as the father looked on his wayward but returning son. Surely today, anyone who comes to Church, be it for the first time, or returning after years of absence, we should look upon them and relate to them with deep compassion, love and acceptance. When James teaches:

Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God

James 4:4

he is talking about when believers start to live like the people of the world, as he makes clear in the previous phrase: “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God?” He is addressing believers who have become adulterous like the world. He is not forbidding believers becoming friends with the people of the world, and showing them the love and compassion of Christ in the hope that one day they will put their faith in Jesus i.e. the Great Commandment and Great Commission working together. How do people come to Christ? Around 80 – 86% through a friend! “God’s love for His community requires that His love for people be displayed by those who claim to know Him” (Jeremias).

What is the message being shouted out as we see Christ dying on the cross? Definitely not: “I have come to judge and punish you!” But: “ I love you with an immense, immeasurable love.”

“The Gospel according to Luke has been called the loveliest book in the world. Luke … was a doctor by profession. Compassionate and kind, he saw people as they truly were. Luke saw men and women and loved them all for who they were”

William Barclay – The Gospel of Luke

This parable illustrates, “The Father’s yearning love for the lost” (Hendriksen). May He be able the more, to demonstrate this through us, His Church, in and through Jesus Christ, Amen!

Let’s Pray

Heavenly Father, we give you praise and thanks for this, that You are a loving and compassionate Father, who gave Your only Beloved Son to die in our place, to take our punishment and to set us free from the wayward lives we were leading. Father, by the presence and power of Your Holy Spirit, may we increasingly become like Jesus in His love and compassion towards the lost.

Father , we thank you for all those who sacrificed their lives in Wars for the freedom we enjoy today. Lord, at this time especially bless their families and descendants.

Lord we pray for all those who are suffering in one way or another through this pandemic. Bring comfort, strength, healing, and blessing into their lives, in Jesus Christ, our Lord, Saviour and Friend, Amen

Please pray for Harry taking funeral on Thursday 21 May 2020 and pray for the families of those who have lost loved ones during this time of lockdown, especially through Covid-19.