"But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd." Matthew 9:36......"It's relatively easy to pontificate on how to live the gospel; it's infinitely harder to incarnate the gospel in your life." Ann Voskamp
On one of his albums, the wonderful singer/songwriter Keith Green introduces his song, "O Lord You're Beautiful," with his testimony that it came about when he was in a time of prayer. He said that he knew his heart had become hard, and that it wasn't because of what he'd been doing, but because of what he'd not been doing. He asked the Lord to cut away the hard layers of his heart and replace them with new, soft skin, like the skin of a baby. Out of that prayer came the song, and a renewed, deeper love for his God and His people. He needed such a time. I need, and continue to need such times. So do you. Do we need them now?
This is a hard, fallen world, filled with hard places. The natural result for all those living in it, including the people of the Kingdom, can be a hard heart. We can become, even preachers, those who, like the Pharisee's of Christ's day, become master pontificaters of the gospel, without any actual incarnation of it in our lives. We become hard of heart, and the process can become so subtle as to not be noticed at all.
Voskamp said that anyone can have enough compassion to write a check, but "Who has compassion for the one who makes life hard?" The one who intrudes upon our personal time, who upsets our agenda, makes demands, makes us uncomfortable? To live out a life of true Christ-like compassion will always take us on the way of the cross. It will mean being available to anyone, at anytime, in any place that He leads us to. In a culture, including the culture of the church, that is obsessed with its own well-being, such a lifestyle is impossible apart from the cross. I guess that's why so few of us really live it out. It's much easier to write a check, hand out a few dollars, tell them to "be at peace and be filled....and hope they go away.
Satan is the enemy of our soul and our heart. He wages a relentless campaign to turn our hearts from Him and to all that is not Him. He does this through a subtle but deadly process of first isolating us, then intimidating us, and finally indoctrinating us to his view. Our hearts of flesh become hearts of stone. It's not about what we're doing, but what we're not doing. The most subtle thing of all is that the hardening does not first begin towards others. The hardening of hearts begins first towards Him.
This is not about a works based faith, but it is about having a Jesus Christ heart that is moved with compassion, that enters into the suffering it sees around it. How often have you and I been like observers of a terrible car accident? We slow down, take a look, and move on. We see all the suffering around us, we take note, but we rarely enter into it. Singer Kelly Minter, whose great goal was to be a successful Christian recording artist before Christ took hold of her heart, tells a story. She was ministering in the Amazon River region. She encountered a young boy, poor, ragged, but the Lord showed her that this young man could one day be real leader among his people. She told him what the Father had shown her. In response, the boy wept and said, "No one has ever seen me before. God sent you here to see me." Who has God sent you and me to see? Who continues to go unseen because we only see ourselves? How deeply does the hardness encase our heart? Where do we, like Keith Green, need a new covering of baby skin? Do we go on pontificating the gospel, or incarnate it? Will the hardening of our hearts go on?