From Time Magazine, Monday, Aug. 09, 1971
"There are few human dramas quite as compelling as the search for a lost child. When 9-year-old Kevin Dye wandered away from a picnic on rugged Casper Mountain in east central Wyoming, there was an extra edge of urgency and fear for his survival: Kevin is brain damaged and requires constant medication to prevent epileptic seizures.Have you ever lost a child (when you weren't trying to)? Maybe in a grocery store? At the park? In the mall? You just turned away for a moment and they were gone. Do you remember the emotions? Your mind starts reeling. Something immediately starts churning and pulling in the pit of your stomach - and only intensifies as the search continues. The longer the search the more raw your emotions become. Any help you can find...anyone willing to join you in the search is a welcome partner. Remember how you felt as you read the following story from Jesus' life.
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:35-38
When Jesus saw the crowds he had compassion on them. The word "compassion" is an anatomical word. It referred to the part of the anatomy between the navel and the groin. It became a word used to describe the churning and pulling you feel in the pit of your stomach when you are deeply moved by what you are seeing or experiencing. It's the same feeling you had when you lost your child. That's what the word "compassion" means.
Jesus saw people who were broken by life, struggling to get by, far from God and in the dark spiritually and it tore him up inside. Moved, as a parent during a long search, he pleads with His followers to pray that God would send more searchers - because there aren't many. There aren't many people moved by the lostness of others. Not many who lose sleep because others are far from God. There aren't many who are willing to set aside their own comfort in order to bring them aid or bring them home.The article continues: More than 3,000 volunteers searched for eleven days until he was found—dehydrated and 25 Ibs. lighter than when his ordeal began, but otherwise in excellent condition. Kevin's vulnerability provoked special reactions to his plight. Volunteers from as far away as Philadelphia and East St. Louis came to help in the search; the National Guard was called in to trek through the dense forest at night with infrared spotting devices. The owners of a restaurant on Casper Mountain turned their establishment over to the searchers for use as a headquarters. Residents of the area brought food and coffee to the volunteers, who spent wearying hours in the mountain wilderness."
Kevin's vulnerability moved people to action. These searchers, many of whom were not God-followers, were moved to action by the same impulse that moved Jesus. Compassion for the vulnerable.
One truth about being in church is that it often distances us from lost people. Studies show that the longer a person is a Christian, the fewer non-Christian people they have in their lives. Isn't that ironic. Isn't that exactly the opposite of what Jesus asked us to pray for? Shouldn't it be the other way around? Jesus had people far from God around Him all the time. He said: "There are lost people everywhere" (i.e., the harvest is plentiful). He had so many around him that He often didn't have time to eat or rest. It just seems odd that the longer we're in church the fewer of those folks we have in our lives. Could it be that doing church and following Jesus are two very different approaches to life?
At Community, we don't want to just be "doing church." We are committed to following Jesus so closely that our lives are changing to be like His. We want to be an answer to Jesus' prayer for more workers. It is interesting that after Jesus calls His followers to pray for more workers, He sends them out to minister to the very people that were on His heart (Matthew 10:1, 5). They were the answer to that prayer. Will we be?
The hard truth is this: If we do not have people in our lives who are far from God...we are not as close to God as we think.