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HOW UNCONDITIONAL IS OUR LOVE AND COMPASSION?

A SERMON DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
20 JULY 1997

Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Leviticus 19:18
2 Samuel 7:1-17
            11:2-27
            12:1-6
Mark 5:17-20
            6:30-34, 53-56

How unconditional is our love and compassion?

Let's think very carefully about this before we answer.

Do you remember when David wanted to build the temple for the Lord, that the Lord said that he would not build it because of the blood he spilled, but that his son would, and that his kingdom would be everlasting (2 Samuel 7:1-17)?

At first David seemed very humbled by this promise, but then his pride came to the surface.

He had an affair with the wife of one of his most trusted soldiers, a foreigner, a Hittite, and when he found out that Bathsheba was pregnant, he had Uriah killed in order to try to cover up his sin from the public; but he could not hide it from the Lord. (2 Samuel 11:2-27).

And in the process of having Uriah killed, other innocent people were also killed.

The Lord had demonstrated His love and compassion towards David and his family to every generation to come, but did David return that love?

Obviously not in this case; thus, his love and compassion were limited.

And this is exactly the way the Lord responded to David. Listen to what He said to him (2 Samuel 12:1-5):

1. Then the Lord sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said, "There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor.

2. "The rich man had a great many flocks and herds.

3. "But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb Which he bought and nourished; And it grew up together with him and his children. It would eat of his bread and drink of his cup and lie in his bosom, And was like a daughter to him.

4. "Now a traveler came to the rich man, And he was unwilling to take from his own flock or his own herd, To prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him; Rather he took the poor man's ewe lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him."

And note carefully how David responded.

5. Then David's anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, "As the Lord lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die.

David knew the truth about unlimited love and compassion, but he didn't practice it.

To have unlimited love and compassion means that we practice it always, not just sometimes, or even most of the time, but always, and we practice it toward every living being.

This poor man's lamb was a member of his own family, like his own daughter.

Obviously, he could look into her eyes and see her soul, just as we can with each other and with those animal members of our family.

He was not raising this lamb for food.

He loved her and cherished her, just as Uriah loved and cherished Bathsheba, which was the point of Nathanís story.

David acted as the rich man, who stole and killed.

The rich man had little or no love or compassion for his own sheep, or he could have understood how the poor man felt.

And neither did David consider how little he loved Uriah, for he allowed his lust to become greater, which is the same thing as the rich man's greed.

David didnít love his Uriah as himself (Leviticus 19:18).

And as we're looking at this example, I want us to realize that this lamb also loved, just as the rich man's lambs also wanted to love and be loved.

We have to be very hard of heart not to understand that both people and animals have the capacity for exhibiting unconditional love and compassion.

It's important for us to feel as this poor man felt, and as the lamb felt.

If we ever hope to have true and unconditional love and compassion, we cannot hide these feelings; we must nurture them.

This is something that David didnít fully grasp, for in verse 6 he says that the rich man must make restitution, fourfold, for the lamb that he killed.

This poor man loved that individual lamb as his daughter, he didnít want four other lambs. He mourned for the slain lamb.

Let's now move forward to Mark 6, and take a look at another example of sheep and people and love and compassion.

Let's start with verses 30-34.

30. And the apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they

reported to Him all that they had done and taught.

31. And He said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while." (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.)

32. And they went away in the boat to a lonely place by themselves.

Have you ever felt like this?

Have you ever felt that so many people were crowding in on you, that you couldn't breathe, that it was too much, that you just needed a little space?

Have you ever experienced so many people making demands on you, that you couldn't handle it? I know I have.

We may sincerely want to help others, and be with them, but sometimes enough is enough, and we need our space, just as Jesus did.

But the key is: what is our over-all attitude?

Is it like Jesus'?

33. And the people saw them going, and many recognized them, and they ran there together on foot from all the cities, and got there ahead of them.

So much for being alone, but perhaps they did get a chance to eat while on the boat.

34. And when He went ashore, He saw a great multitude, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.

This is the key.

Jesus' love and compassion were unconditional.

Even though He wanted to be alone for a while, He also understood why many of these people were following Him.

They were being taught of the Law and the rituals by the priests, but not of true love and compassion.

They had lost their hope, a hope that they saw in Jesus.

They needed love, and Jesus was offering it.

Even if they didn't fully believe, they still experienced His love and compassion, and wanted it.

Jesus looked into their eyes, and saw the yearning of their souls, and He could not turn away from them.

He loved this flock of people, as the poor man loved his ewe lamb.

He loved and felt compassion as each of us should, and as everyone really should.

Let's jump ahead to verses 53-56:

53. And when they had crossed over they came to land at Gennesaret, and moored to the shore.

54. And when they had come out of the boat, immediately the people recognized Him,

55. and ran about that whole country and began to carry about on their pallets those who were sick, to the place they heard He was.

56. And wherever He entered villages, or cities, or countryside, they were laying the sick in the market places, and entreating Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were being cured.

These weren't even Hebrew people.

These were the same people who previously told Him to leave their country (Mark 5:17).

This is the same place where Jesus left the man out of whom He had cast many demons, and had told to spread the good news of what had happened to him (Mark 5:18-20).

Even though the people had previously rejected the one who had the demons, it is obvious that they now accepted him and what he told them.

He had compassion on his people as Jesus had.

He wanted them to be healed as he had been healed.

And when the people sought out Jesus, as the Israelites did, He likewise felt the same kind of love and compassion for them.

He didn't question whether or not they fully believed in Him as the Son of God.

Simply because they believed in His healing ability, it was enough, and Jesus healed them.

Each of us really needs to consider who we are every day, even several times a day.

We need to ask ourselves, "Am I the person Jesus wants me to be?"

"Am I living up to the potential Jesus sees in me?"

"Do I love God as He loves me?"

"Do I love myself as God loves me?"

"Do I love others, all others, humans and non-humans, and feel compassion for them, as God loves and feels compassion for me?"

All these answers should be, "Yes!"

So if they're not, we need to work on our priorities.

We need to remove any hardness of heart we may have remaining.

Let me give you an example.

Have you ever driven along in your car, or walked along the side of the road, and noticed all the trash that unthinking people have thrown there?

And because thereís so much, we sometimes think itís overwhelming, and thus we do nothing.

And if no one ever did anything, it would soon become overwhelming.

But some caring people do pick up this trash, and they do it one piece at a time.

No one person can do it all.

But with each thing that each of us picks up, there is less left to look ugly.

And that's the way we are to be with our love and compassion.

We have to extend it one unselfish moment at a time.

None of us can do it all, but we can all do something.

We can all work on improving our sensitivity, by allowing ourselves to feel what others feel, even if it hurts.

For the hurt we feel is the process by which our hearts and souls are softened, that we can love even more, and be ever more sensitive and compassionate.

In God's eyes, each of us is as that little ewe lamb, and we need to share this love and compassion with everyone.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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