Holy people in an unholy world

“Therefore come out from them and be separate… Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,” says the Lord Almighty. Since we have these promises… let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit… 2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1

“It is better to be alone than in bad company.” Do you find yourself agreeing with that quotation?

Apparently George Washington said it. I must admit that what I know about George Washington could be written on the tiniest of post-it notes. But I reckon he was spot-on with this. It certainly chimes in with Paul’s severe, uncompromising words to the Corinthian church: Come out… be separate… touch nothing unclean… purify yourselves from any contamination.

In fact, go back a little to 1 Corinthians 15:33 and you find him saying very much what George Washington said: “Bad company corrupts good character”.

You don’t have to read far in the letters to Corinth to see that the church there was a pretty ugly mess: factions and divisions; gross sexual immorality; quarrels that ended up in law courts; compromises with idol-worship; disorderly worship services… welcome to the church of Jesus Christ in Corinth.

The problem lay partly in the fact that Corinth, as a city, was known for its corruption and vice. And the Christian community was right there, in the thick of it. However true their conversion experience may have been – and, strikingly, Paul never expresses doubts about it – that nasty taint of unbridled paganism didn’t just go away. So no wonder Paul pleads with his fellow-believers to distance themselves from every hint of “uncleanness”.

I’m sure he would say just the same to us.

But how are we to put this into practice? Some Christians have seen this as a call to complete withdrawal from the world around us. But that surely can’t be right. Didn’t Jesus live his thirty years on earth in the thick of things? Paul himself wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty in the business of evangelism and church-planting (what else was he doing in Corinth in the first place?).

No: Christians who adopt the “withdrawal” policy tend to end up sanctimonious and self-righteous, and that’s not a good witness for Christ.

When I was a teenage Christian I was taught a little motto which I think isn’t at all bad: we are to be “in the world but not of it”. Certainly, Jesus doesn’t call us to be hermits – he wants us involved in making known the good news and announcing the kingdom of God. But he also insists on total purity of life, motive, speech and behaviour. It’s a great challenge: how can I be truly godly in a godless world?

Well, it’s a question each of us must answer, prayerfully and thoughtfully, for ourselves.

But the point of Paul’s words is to sound a serious warning to anyone who wants to follow Christ: every waking minute of every day the devil wants us to get sullied, contaminated, by what goes on around us. And if we are not wise in the choice of people we mix with this process will take place without us even noticing it.

A friend was invited to the office Christmas party. He didn’t really want to go – the alcohol would flow freely, inhibitions would be lowered, people would end up doing and saying things they would never have dreamed of in the normal office setting. So what would he do? “I’ll go along for a bit and enjoy it as much as I can, but I won’t stay too long.” I think that was about right. And, who knows, like Jesus at the wedding at Cana, he may have brought something of the presence of God.

Another friend came to me once after a meeting where we had been stressing the need to be active in witness among our non-Christian friends. With a guilty look on his face he said, “Colin, you know, I don’t think I have any non-Christian friends!”

He was a dear, good man, deeply committed to the life of his church – but he hadn’t realised how, little by little, the church had gobbled him up and taken over every moment of his spare time. (To his credit, he set out the very next day to redress the balance in his life.)

Balance. I think that word (blessed word!) sums it up very well. As Christians we are walking a tightrope every day. And when you’re on a tightrope, well, balance is everything. Lord God, help us not to fall off on either side!

Heavenly Father, I want to be pure and Christlike. But you have placed me in this sad, soiled world, and I am glad of that. I want to live for you. Help me, please, to get it right! Amen.

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You can be an answer to prayer

When we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn – conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus… 2 Corinthians 7:5-6.

It’s good to pray – every Christian knows that: we’ve heard it in a thousand sermons.

But it’s a real joy too to be the answer to someone else’s prayer. Is that something you’ve ever thought about?

It’s happened recently to my wife and me. Having just moved to a new home, we were obviously keen to find a church to be part of. We’ve ended up in a quite tiny congregation, a church recently planted by a bigger one. Most of the members are young adults, many with small children. This creates a really nice atmosphere: but these pioneers have been very aware of their relative youth and inexperience.

So when we happened along, grey-haired and wrinkled, having parked our zimmer frames at the door (all right, I’m exaggerating just a touch), the response has been (and perhaps I’m exaggerating just a touch here too): “Oh! We’ve been praying for some really old people to join us!” (A cheeky lot, they are.) And we’re, like, “Er, thanks a bunch.”

But – jokes aside – we’re pleased, of course.

I hope you can see the funny side of it. But the serious point is that just as they have turned out to be an answer to our prayer, so, in return, it seems that we are also an answer to theirs. Which is a good feeling. (Mind you, they don’t really know us that well yet…)

Paul had serious problems with the church he had planted in Corinth. In fact, of all his “problem churches” – and he had a few! – they were probably the worst. And he tells us here that as he made his way through Macedonia (quite likely he was in Philippi) he was close to despair (“downcast” or “brought low” is the word he uses).

No doubt there were other things on his mind as well as the problems in Corinth, but they certainly didn’t help. He doesn’t actually mention praying but, knowing him as we do, who could doubt that he did?

And then what happens? Along comes his young protégé Titus, bubbling over with good news: things are looking up in Corinth! I can imagine Paul and Titus talking long into the night about what Titus has discovered.

The point is simple: Titus, the bringer of good news, was an answer to Paul’s prayer. And the challenge also is simple: Why shouldn’t you and I expect to be the answer to someone else’s prayer?

It’s a truly humbling thing. Once, when I was still a full-time pastor, I had a feeling one day – just a hunch, really, nothing more – that I should visit a particular person that afternoon. I wasn’t aware of any special need or difficulty; it may have been simply that it was a time since we had last talked. But as she opened the door she looked at me and said “I was praying that you might come”. (Thank you, Lord…)

I can’t claim that this kind of thing has been a regular occurrence in my life. But when it does happen, how good it feels! I reckon Titus felt pretty good that day in Philippi as Paul wrapped his arms around him.

I’m quite sure that there are people in your circle and in mine who are in need of blessing and encouragement – or perhaps rebuke and challenge. Perhaps they’re trying to pray their way through a difficult time: sickness, marriage problems, difficulties at work, a major disappointment, doubts and questionings. And you might be the answer to their prayer with a visit, a phone call or some other contact.

For this to happen just one main “qualification” is needed: an openness to God’s day-to-day leading; a sensitivity to the moving of the Holy Spirit. What matters is to embark on each new day not with our mind focussed on “What do I want from today? What are my needs and problems?” but “I wonder how God might be able to use me today?”

You might get a surprise. And some troubled soul might get just the help they need.

Be blessed. And be a blessing!

(Oh, and as for that bunch of impertinent children that God seems to have landed us among, don’t worry – we have ways of getting our revenge…)

Lord God, please teach me to pray. But help me too to believe that I can also be the answer to someone else’s prayer this very day. Amen.

How should God’s church grow?

To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write… I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Revelation 3:7-8

A minister friend said to me not long ago: “I don’t particularly want my church to grow – I want God’s kingdom to grow”.

A case of somebody being a bit super-spiritual? – saying what a Christian ought to say rather than what he really felt (don’t be silly, of course he wants his church to grow!)?

No. Trust me, I have known this person for many years, and I am quite sure that he meant exactly what he said.

One reason he gave for his attitude was this: “I have been called by God to be a pastor, and I don’t want to have more people in my congregation than I can pastor personally.”

And so his policy was to plant new congregations whenever his own grew to the point of getting unmanageable.

Well, you may or may not agree with his attitude. Perhaps there is an argument for congregations that are growing steadily – even exploding numerically – to remain together as one congregation: they certainly make a bit of an impact on our cynical, sceptical, unbelieving world.

But I for one could certainly identify with his desire to be a pastor rather than a managing director or CEO. We saw last week how Jesus the good shepherd “calls his own sheep by name” (John 10); well, it seems a sad state of affairs if his under-shepherds – his pastors – are unable to make the same claim. Let pastors be pastors!

Whatever, my friend was certainly bucking a trend. We live in a world where, so often, big is beautiful. There is an unhealthy interest in numbers, statistics: one might almost say, an obsession. And this mentality has established itself fairly and squarely in the church. The “mega-church” has become, it sometimes seems, every minister’s dream ambition. And ordinary church-members are easily dazzled by the speaker who leads a big, bursting congregation.

In Revelation 2-3 we find seven “letters” from Jesus to different churches. In each case there are words of encouragement and challenge; usually, there are also strong words of rebuke: “Nevertheless, I have this against you…” is a repeated refrain.

But in just two cases there are no words of rebuke at all: the church at Smyrna (2:8-11), and the church at Philadelphia (3:7-13). What’s more, in each of these cases the impression is given that the churches may well have been quite small and even struggling.

Says Jesus to the church in Smyrna: “I know your afflictions and your poverty…” (2:9). And to the church in Philadelphia: “I know that you have little strength…” (3:8).

You get the point, I’m sure: Jesus seems to have a special love and appreciation for… not what may have been big bulging churches like Sardis (3:1) and Laodicea (3:14-21), but for churches that, on the surface, were not particularly impressive at all. Big isn’t necessarily beautiful. Small isn’t necessarily insignificant.

I know we have to keep a sense of balance. If you read Acts, for example, you find that Luke, the writer, wasn’t afraid to record the numerical progress of the church. To grow numerically isn’t of itself wrong, of course not! But again, of itself it may just be a cover for serious spiritual ill-health.

When I was a very young minister I once attended a ministers’ fellowship I’ve never forgotten. The speaker challenged us with a couple of questions. First: “How would you feel if God sent a real revival to this town?” Well, of course, we all nodded our heads and murmured how thrilled and delighted we would be.

Then came question two: “How would you feel if this revival came about through the church half a mile down the road from yours?” Of course, we all insisted again how thrilled we would still be. But I couldn’t help wondering if some of us were guilty of a little touch of hypocrisy…

We sometimes ask the question about a church: What kind of church is it? By which we very likely mean, How big is it? Well, fair enough – it’s a valid question. But I suggest that there are three other far more important questions, and they can all be grouped under the letter “h”.

First, how healthy is it? Is it biblical, prayerful, Spirit-filled? Second, how holy is it? Are the love, mercy, grace, purity and beauty of Jesus seen in it? Third, how happy is it? Is it lovingly united and full of the joy of the Lord?

And a question that takes us back to where we started with my friend’s remark: What is our priority – the growth of our church, or the growth of God’s kingdom?

Honestly, now…!

Lord Jesus, build your church! – and use me in the building process just as you see fit. Amen.

The Lord really is my shepherd

Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen.” John 10:14-16

How do you feel about being compared to a sheep? Not particularly flattered, I suspect, because sheep aren’t exactly the brightest of animals.

Well, sorry, but you’d better get used to it! – because this is an image which is very common in the Bible, both Old and New Testament. (You could take a look at Ezekiel 34, Jeremiah 23:1-4 and Numbers 27:15-17 if you’re interested in following this up. Not to mention Psalm 23.)

In the Bible shepherds often stand for leaders, rulers, even kings. God himself is the ultimate shepherd to his people, so when Jesus comes and declares himself to be the promised good shepherd, this isn’t simply a comforting and encouraging figure of speech; no, it’s also a serious claim to authority and status, a claim to be nothing less than the fulfilment of ancient prophecies.

But it’s the comforting aspect that specially touches us as Christians today. Why? – because it’s all about relationship. See what Jesus is saying…

  1. I am in an intimate relationship with you, my sheep: “I know my sheep and my sheep know me”.

Earlier in the chapter Jesus has told us that the good shepherd “calls his own sheep by name” (verse 3). Isn’t that beautiful? Christianity isn’t a “religion” that we do our best to follow! No, it’s a relationship with a shepherd who knows each one of personally and intimately.

And just as he knows us, so we also know him. He is a living reality in our day to day lives. We “know his voice” (verse 4).

Do you have that kind of relationship with Jesus? – warm, personal, intimate? Make no mistake, this is for you. Don’t settle for anything less!

  1. My relationship with you, my sheep, reflects my relationship with God my Father: “… just as the Father knows me, and I know the Father…”

I don’t know about you, but I find it very difficult even to start thinking about the eternal, timeless father/son relationship of God and Jesus: some of the words that spring to mind are “perfect”, “deep beyond imagination” and “infinitely loving”.

How wonderful, then, that we can speak of us-and-Jesus in similar terms. The closeness Jesus has with his Father is mirrored, albeit of course in a far less perfect way, in the closeness we have with him. The great truth is that we find ourselves when we lose ourselves in him. Have you yet come to that point in your life?

  1. My relationship with you, my sheep, is one of loving sacrifice: “…and I lay down my life for the sheep”.

Earlier in the chapter Jesus draws a comparison between the good shepherd and the “hired hand”. The hired hand might be very good at his job. But ultimately he does it for money (nothing necessarily wrong with that, of course) – which means that as soon as a bear or lion appears he’s on his way pretty sharpish; he doesn’t love the sheep, or know them personally, or know their names. There’s no relationship.

But with the good shepherd it’s different. He is prepared to risk his very life to protect and save his sheep. Which, of course, is exactly what Jesus did.

The theme of sacrifice is a thread running through the whole Bible. In ancient Israel animals were slaughtered day by day on the altar of the temple. Blood was shed in order to deal with the sins of the people, and in order to bring them back into harmony with God.

It seems strange, but the shepherd is also the lamb of God “who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). Can you say with confidence that your sins have been dealt with by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross? Can you say with Paul: “He loved me and gave himself for me” (note those “me’s”!) (Galatians 2:20).

Well, sheep may not be particularly impressive animals, but I can only say how grateful I am to be numbered among Jesus’ sheep. And how thankful I am for those people who first told me about him and introduced me to him.

Which leads me to a challenge for all of us… What about those “other sheep who are not of this sheep pen” who are still waiting to hear? Is it time we did for them what somebody once did for us?

Lord Jesus, thank you for being my good shepherd. Please help me to be a good sheep! Amen.

Praying in an emergency

The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king… Nehemiah 2:4

Have you ever had one of those “it’s now or never” moments? You find yourself in a situation where you know that if you don’t act now, the chance will be gone for ever. Either you “bottle out” and spend the rest of your life wondering what might have been. Or you take a deep breath and plunge in head first.

Well, it was like that for Nehemiah in this encounter with Artaxerxes, King of Persia.

A bit of background…

It’s about 450 years before Christ, and the people of Israel are subject to the Persian empire. All the supposedly important people have been taken away into exile, and their constant longing is to get back to their homeland and especially their great city of Jerusalem. But some of them, though in effect slaves in a strange land, have risen to positions of importance.

Nehemiah is an example: “I was cupbearer to the king”, he tells us in the last verse of the first chapter. This was an important and prestigious position – we aren’t told how Nehemiah rose to this height.

From chapter one we also learn that Nehemiah has been talking to some of his fellow-Israelites who have made the journey – several hundred miles – from Jerusalem. He asks them how things are back home, and the answer he gets is depressing indeed: “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire” (1:3).

Nehemiah’s response is to “sit down and weep”. For several weeks he “mourns and fasts and prays before the God of heaven” (1:4). And then the day comes – that “now or never” day – when he makes up his mind to ask the king for permission to go to Jerusalem himself and set about the task of restoring Jerusalem’s glory.

He can’t ask the king point-blank, so he somehow makes a show of his misery. When the king queries what is wrong he explains the reason, knowing that if the king isn’t happy with his request he will have blown it once and for all.

And that is when we read the words above: “The king said to me ‘What is it you want?’ Then I prayed to the God of heaven and I answered…”

There’s a lot we can learn from these opening chapters of the Book of Nehemiah. But I want to focus on just one tiny point, one that it’s easy to miss, but which is very important. Nehemiah tells us that he “prayed to the God of heaven” between the king asking what was wrong and him replying.

And you find yourself thinking (if you’re like me, anyway), “Hang on! There simply wasn’t time for Nehemiah to pray in that spit-second gap!” But Nehemiah says it’s so, and who are we to doubt him?

A couple of things strike me.

First, the length of a prayer is the thing about it that matters least. Presumably when Artaxerxes asked Nehemiah what he wanted, Nehemiah breathed a quick, silent prayer: “Lord, this is it!” or simply “Lord, help!” And God heard.

We make a big mistake if we imagine that we must clock up so much time in our prayers – as if God is sitting in heaven with a clip-board and a stop-watch. Of course not! A single word – a groan of pain – a flow of tears – things like these might constitute a more powerful prayer than an avalanche of words.

Have you ever counted the number of words in the Lord’s Prayer? Probably not – why should you? But, in the version we have in Matthew 6, it’s about fifty. Even prayed quite slowly, it takes a mere thirty seconds. All right, a bit longer than Nehemiah’s prayer! – but not exactly a prayer marathon.

But second, Nehemiah did know quite a bit about long and agonised prayers. We saw how, in chapter one, he fasted and prayed for several weeks. And we are even given an account of one of his prayers (verses 5-11). His now-or-never prayer – his “arrow” prayer, or “emergency” prayer, whatever you like to call it – was just one part of a long-standing habit and discipline of prayer.

Nehemiah, whatever else he was, was a man of prayer – and sometimes it came out one way, sometimes another. All that matters is that… he prayed.

I hope his example challenges us to do just the same, always keeping in mind that the “right” length for any prayer is, well, as long, or as short, as it takes.

Lord God, teach me how to pray! Amen.

Work hard – and have faith

Jesus said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces corn…” Mark 4:26-28

Somebody told me recently how a sermon of mine had affected him. He was actually able to remember the Bible passage and the main points. (Wahay!)

This was nice to hear, of course – sometimes we preachers are tempted to wonder if our words make any kind of impact at all. But the really striking thing is that the sermon he was talking about was preached – wait for it – about twenty-five years ago.

I don’t say this in order to boast or claim to be a special preacher – I’m sure the sermon was a pretty bog-standard sermon preached by a very bog-standard preacher. But it was certainly encouraging to feel that God’s word had taken root in that man’s heart and was, hopefully, still bearing fruit.

The key word there is encouraging. I think there may be various layers of meaning to Jesus’ little parable here in Mark 4, but surely one reason he told the story was in order to encourage his disciples regarding the work of “the kingdom of God”.

The man who sows the seed, he says, can’t see what’s happening to it once it’s buried in the ground. He hasn’t got a clue how the miracle of germination and growth happens. But the fact is that, whether he’s up and about his usual business, or fast asleep in his bed, something is happening: “All by itself (the Greek word is literally automatically) the soil produces corn…”

Have you been feeling a bit discouraged recently about your Christian witness and ministry? Perhaps you teach a Sunday School class, and the children really don’t seem interested. Perhaps you organised a special evangelistic event, and nobody much turned up. Perhaps that person at work you had been speaking to about Jesus made it clear that they just weren’t getting the message.

And you have been tempted to say “Why bother?” or “I’m wasting my time” or “I’m just no good at this”. Or all three.

Yes? Well, the message of this parable – just like the much longer Parable of the Sower, which we all know so much better – is designed to put a stop to such gloomy thoughts.

Of course we do have to face the fact that we may not have done very well whatever it was that we were aiming to do. Perhaps we need to have a think about our methods or our motives. But, make no mistake, if we did what we did genuinely and in faith and wanting to honour God by it, then we can be confident that it will one day bear fruit.

Who knows? – in twenty years time one of those children you teach may be standing up in church somewhere to testify how “I had a teacher who really drew me to Jesus”. That person at work may remember you as a genuine and Christlike witness, even though things didn’t click at the time.

The point is simple: Our business is to be active and to do our best in serving God – and then leave the rest to him. You can’t force it or make something happen. We’ve done our part – now trust God to do his.

Later in the New Testament this encouraging truth is linked to the work of the Holy Spirit. That mysterious, secret life-force that somehow causes the seed to grow is, in spiritual terms, the Spirit himself. And the great thing is that we simply never can tell when the Spirit may see fit to take our feeble and perhaps completely forgotten efforts and turn them into something powerful.

Paul speaks at length about the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. It’s powerful, stirring stuff – nearly sixty verses of it. But he rounds off his chapter in a very matter-of-fact way that chimes in perfectly with the words of Jesus in the parable: “With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort” (The Message).

Christian, keep on keeping on!

Loving Father, please help me when I feel discouraged and useless. Put deep within my heart a conviction that “my labour is not in vain in the Lord”. Amen.

Have you got lumbered?

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions… “Do not take any gold or silver or copper in your belts, take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep”. Matthew 10:9-10

My wife and I recently moved house. We had spent nearly twenty-five years in our previous home so, as you can imagine, it was quite a business getting everything organised for a move of more than a hundred miles.

There were the usual stresses – legal matters, finance, insurances, removal arrangements, you name it: all par for the course. But one of the most disturbing things was to discover just how much stuff we had accumulated over the years. Stuff which we now had to decide what to do with. We realised just how much our life was dominated by things.

The trips we made to charity shops! The journeys we made to the rubbish tip! The stuff we off-loaded onto friends! We found ourselves asking silly questions: Just how many coffee mugs does a house need? How many pots and pans? How many sheets and pillow-cases? How many books, some of which haven’t been read for years (and, let’s be honest, some of which have never been read at all)?

When Jesus sent his disciples out to make known the good news of the kingdom of God, he told them to travel light: no supplies of money, no travel bag, no second tunic or sandals. Just go as you are.

We shouldn’t misunderstand this. Jesus is not saying they must be permanently hungry or homeless. No, he specifically tells them to gladly accept whatever hospitality is on offer. And, of course, the mission he was sending them out on was short-term, a kind of lightning gospel blitz.

So we shouldn’t imagine that these instructions were intended for all Christians for all time. Later in the New Testament, indeed, we come across wealthy Christians settled in large homes, and using the good things they had in order to promote God’s work.

But that doesn’t mean that Jesus’ words to his disciples here can’t be relevant to us today. What should we make of them? Here are a few suggestions…

First, there are still times when God calls his people to make big material sacrifices. And just possibly you could be one of them.

Is God calling some of us to take a deep breath and do something the outside world might consider extravagant, even irresponsible? I love the Bible stories of people like the woman with her flask of perfume (Matthew 26:6-13) and Barnabas (Acts 4:36-37), don’t you? Is it time, perhaps, for a big one-off donation?

Second, even if that isn’t the case, is it time we did a bit of decluttering?

There have been books and articles published recently – and not particularly by Christians – that talk about how, once you reach a “peak” in the things you enjoy, they cease to bring further satisfaction, and so the best way to be happy is actually to get rid of stuff rather than add to it. In other words, sacrificial giving is not just a matter of serving God, it’s also in the best interests of our own happiness and well-being. Time for a car-load to the charity-shop?

Third, perhaps the main point of Jesus’ instructions to his disciples was to do with urgency.

He wanted them to understand that making known the good news of the kingdom is an urgent business, so they should let nothing weigh them down. The writer to the Hebrews talks about “throwing off everything that hinders” in running the race of the Christian life, and I think he is making the same point (Hebrews 12:1). There are things which are not in themselves wrong or sinful; but which are a distraction from, or a drag on, what really matters.

Following Jesus is not a hobby or a pastime; it isn’t a nice, cosy little added extra to bolt onto our lives. No; it is life. It’s not the cherry on the cake; it is the cake itself. And we should let nothing push it into second or third place.

Just before he spoke these challenging words we are told that Jesus looked at the crowds and “had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).

Nothing changes, does it? Is it time some of us lifted up our eyes, looked around us, and made up our minds to roll up our sleeves and make a difference to the sad, aimless, confused, troubled people we live among? If we won’t, who will? If we don’t demonstrate the tender compassion of Jesus, who will?

Lord Jesus, create in me that sense of urgency, sacrifice and tenderness you inspired in your first disciples, so that, in whatever ways, I will be better able to show forth your wonderful compassion in this sad and troubled world. Amen.