The Relationship between Christ's Passion and Compassion
Ever since the Supreme Court redefined marriage the Christian has been made to feel loveless, merciless, compassionless if he does not embrace women marrying women, men wanting to be women, and all the perversities in-between. Yes, all the perversities we were taught to laugh at on TV and in movies, we're now to take seriously. How do we navigate this new mindfield? That's m-i-n-d field. In Jesus of course of whom 17th century cleric John Donne said, "Was not Thy Passion enough, but Thou must have compassion" (Sermon, cxv)?
Christ's Passion was for all sinners everywhere. Yes, that includes heinous sins of deeds, words, and even thoughts. His Passion was for the sexual sins our society has embraced as well as for the sexual sins, few though they be, our society doesn't embrace, yet.
Make sure you put yourself in this number. Make sure you see that your one of the sinners Christ's Passion was for. Make sure you see that it's not just your sexual sins that He suffered but for the even more serious sins of unbelief and misbelief, for the idolatry that manifests itself whenever we don't fear, love, or trust in God above all things.
Christ's Passion from Gethsemane to Golgotha was about paying for all sins. There is not a man, woman, or child anywhere that you can point to and ask, "What about theirs?" and not get the answer, "Yes their sins too were there." Isn't that what John the Baptist cried out? The Lamb of God was carrying away the sins of the world. Yes, that includes those 2 men at the altar and those 2 women keeping house. Yes, that includes that person denying his God-given gender.
Don't let this mind-field our society has walked us into limit the Passion of Christ. God went to incredible lengths to pay for the sins of all. He sent His Son into the womb of a virgin to redeem those there, and to put Him under all the laws, requirements, and demands of God from then on. And Jesus kept those perfectly. Both God and men had to pronounce Jesus innocent of any wrongdoing. And then off Jesus went to be the wrath removing sacrifice not only for our sins but for the sins of the whole world including that alphabet soup of LGBT.
You may not deny this without limiting Christ's atonement. This is the very Gospel itself that God was in Christ reconciling the world not a piece of it, not just the heterosexuals, not just the non-perverts but the world to Himself. How did He do it? By not counting people's sins against them. Yikes. You mean God in Christ is not counting the sin of those 2 men in a lip lock against them? You mean God in Christ is not counting the sin of those 2 women raising a child with 2 mommies against them? Nope. And that's what you must say too or you deny the Gospel, and if you deny it for them, you limit it for you.
Stay with me. Christ's Passion was for all sinners, but as John Donne said His painful, hellish Passionate suffering and death for all sinners wasn't enough. He also has compassion for all sinners. Yes, He has compassion for those sinners that upset us. We're Jonah who is so angry that God forgave the ungodly, cruel Assyrians. And how did the Lord answer his pout? "Should not I pity Ninevehin which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?" Christ has compassion on cattle for crying out loud!
Hear Luther on this: "Even the most wicked human beings must be borne with compassion" (LW 3 240). And there is absolutely no way this can be done apart from us being bathed in Christ's compassion for us. Lam. 3:21-22: "Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail." Psalm 86 describes the Lord as "a God full of compassion and grace." Psalm 111 says, "The Lord is gracious and full of compassion." In Isaiah 54:8 the Lord says "with everlasting loving-kindness, I will have compassion on you."
Hear this flood of compassion for you the poor miserable sinner; for you who have let your God down everyday of your life and your loved one's down only a little less; for you who know your sins outnumber your hairs; for you who are sinful from your youth up; for you who were conceived in sin. For you who are by nature a blind, dead, enemy of God is all this compassion for Jesus' sake.
But that's part of the problem. We think that this turn of the events shows that God is no longer compassionate to us. The other side of sin, death, and the devil has won. Well how do you think Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah felt? The Scripture says "righteous Lot's soul was vexed everyday." He was miserable. Everywhere he turned homosexuality was celebrated. But what happened? The Lord had compassion on him. In the midst of that ocean of unbelief and unfettered sin, God delivered him and his family from there while delivering the 5 cities around him to total destruction. The Lord bore with the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah for decades but then judgment fell and fell hard.
It's a miracle that our country which has embraced baby killing for over 40 years has not been judged yet. It's a miracle that God has had compassion on this land that so boldly shakes its fist at His truth. It's a miracle that judgment has not come, and it's because of us. It's because Christians, as our Lord directs us, each Sunday pray for our leaders. And we'll continue to do that till this country is no more. We can't hold back our prayers, but there comes a time when we must hold back our compassion.
Christ's compassion ceases when it leads away from His Passion. Hear Luther's full statement on this. "Even the most wicked human beings must be borne with compassion, but when they want to snatch us with them to destruction, compassion must cease" (Ibid.). Go back and read your Bibles. When the Rich Young man wanted to be saved by keeping the Law, Jesus gave him too much Law to keep. The Scripture says that he went away sad, but Jesus didn't chase after Him with compassion. See how sharply Jesus spoke to those who wished to put anything before Him. "Let the dead bury the dead." "He who doesn't love father and mother more than Me is not worthy of Me." "He who is not with Me is against Me."
Jesus didn't go through His Passion so that He could show compassion on those embracing their sins, defending their sins, wishing to remain in their sins, or so people could declare that what God declares to be sin, isn't. This is why faithful Christians everywhere are struggling so. Being put before us are obvious sins of the depths of Sodom and Gomorrah, and we are being told that we must say they are not sins. But we can't do that because if they are not sins then not only don't they need Jesus' forgiveness but Jesus didn't die for them. Our compassion is being called forth at the expense of denying Jesus' Passion. Our love for our fellow man is being called forth at the expense of the doctrine of the Gospel.
Things probably would've come to a head sooner for faithful Christians if we had simply and consistently called abortion what it is: murder. But we didn't do that because when you did, no pun intended, all hell broke loose. Now it's time to pay the piper. Secular government has redefined marriage. They are requiring us to say the joining of the same sex is marriage. That is the same as saying that killing the unborn is not murder. The government didn't require us to say that but only pay for abortions. So abortion wasn't in our face the same way same sex marriage is.
Now we can't help but speak out. Those in the outward church who embraced abortion in the name of compassion will do the same with gay marriage, and because it is a much more public issue, they leave us feeling compassionless, and maybe less Christian. So let's see what Christ says.
In our text, we read that Jesus had compassion on the crowd. Surely there were unrepentant sinners in that crowd, people who embraced all manner of sins, yet Jesus had compassion on them. But what did He do to address their plight of being shepherdess sheep? He became their shepherd by teaching them many things. You know shepherdess sheep will eat things that our poisonous for them; they are easy prey to wolves, and if they fall on their backs they can't get up on their own. Shepherdess sheep will embrace the murder of the unborn as a good thing and gay marriage that cannot reproduce life as a life saver. They will fall into the well of unreason where the only law admitted by all is survival of the fittest.
Jesus has compassion on the homosexuals, lesbians, abortionists in this crowd, and how does He show His compassion? By teaching them, and what do you think His main teaching was? His Passion. That He came into this world to deliver people from their sins. Though the whole world was telling them that there is no deliverance from their unbelief, their sexual immorality, their thieving, lying ways, He was here to say He was their hope; He was their way out. But before you can show any sinner the way out from his sin, you have to show him his sin. Before you can preach to a sinner of the Lord's forgiveness, he has to see he has sins that need forgiving.
The LGBT crowd thinks they've won the day. They think a government fiat can relieve their guilt; make them feel normal; make them the "gay" people this sad section of society has always claimed to be. It won't, and when they realize that, they will conclude we who won't accept them are their real problem just as the Sodomites concluded Lot judging them was the problem.
Let us have compassion for these shepherdess sheep not by accepting their slavery to sin but by confessing the Shepherd who bore their sin, guilt, and shame. We can no more accept their sins than we do our own. We can have no more compassion on their sins than we do on our own. We can't embrace a compassion that denies our Lord's Passion, but we can marvel with John Donne that Jesus has both for sinners without compromising either. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Ninth Sunday after Pentecost (20150726); Mark 6:34