A Pain!

My prayer for all of us who call ourselves Lutherans here in Australia is that we will all have “a pain in the gut”!

Let me explain…I’m not a great theological scholar so when a pastor challenged me about my understanding of the word “compassion” I fumbled around with words such as “empathy”, “feeling sad for people and their situations”… he went on to explain that the word “compassion” as it’s written in various passages in the Bible, literally means “to have a pain in the gut”.

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Matthew 14:14
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36
Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way. Matthew 15:32
Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him. Matthew 20:34
So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. Luke 15:20
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. Mark 6:34

I don’t know about you, but I’ve probably had one or two occasions when I had a pain in the stomach which has caused me to double up – tears pouring down and an ache so bad that nothing seemed to take the pain away (most probably because of something I’d eaten)!

But God had a different kind of “pain in the gut” for me! He had “compassion” on me. He broke for me. He did everything so that I can know Him – died for me so that I can know life in all its amazing fullness.

I know there have been times that I have cried with that kind of pain for people who I know and love who have wander away from their relationship with God. But I wonder if I’ve really had “a pain in the gut” for others just like Jesus has had for them – whether I’ve really cared enough to have ‘compassion” so that they can know His love.

In my understanding “mission” is about having “a pain in the gut” for others – a pain that cries out for them in prayer, a pain that causes us to want to abandon our own desires so that others will know Him – to be people who touch others with the healing love of Jesus, who feed the hungry, who go to the lost and show them the “Way”. To be people who live lives of love and service that causes others to ask questions – to be people just like Jesus.

As I struggle to understand what “mission” means for us here in Australia I’ve come to understand that it isn’t about “mission overseas” versus “mission at home here in Australia”. We need both. We can’t have one without the other. In Australia we need people who will have “a pain in the gut”, for the lost generation of young people who struggle with loss of purpose, drug and alcohol addiction, loss of self-worth…we need those who will have a pain in the gut for the “baby boomers” and the upwardly mobile younger generation who have worked or are continuing to work to establish their identity and security by gathering wealth, property, insurance and lifestyles that are empty. We need people with “a pain in the gut” for the marginalized, homeless, refugees and those people of all ages who see no reason to live. And we need people who have such “a pain in the gut” that they will do everything to meet the needs of those who live outside the borders of our blessed country of Australia – who have no home, no food, no water, no way to hearing the life saving message of the love of our living Lord Jesus Christ who died for us so that we can know life in all it’s fullness.

It’s been said that Christians often give people answers to questions that they’re not asking, but Jesus lived his life and told stories that made people ask questions. My prayer is that each of us, as followers of Jesus we will be people just like Jesus – living lives of “compassion”, loving and serving in the places where he is already working – living the lives that make people ask questions.

You and I engage in God’s mission in the world when we place some money on the offering plate or direct debit funds to the ministry and mission carried out by the Lutheran Church of Australia. Both here in Australia – in congregational and District ministries and overseas, through the LCA and the relationships we share with overseas partner Churches, God takes the gifts that we give and multiplies them in amazing ways. Through these gifts, in countless ways people are taught in seminaries how to preach and teach so that others can know of God’s love, others are feed and clothed, have a place to call home, Christian literature is translated and printed, and medicine is given to the sick. Through your giving, God’s love is shared in many ways with and by people in Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Sabah and Indonesia … as Lutheran Christians in these countries reach out to their own people and beyond their borders into neighbouring countries with the “compassionate” love of God.

Thank you for caring. I pray that God continues to grow each of us in the joy of knowing his great compassion for us.

Many of our partner churches are working in new territory for the kingdom of God; therefore, spiritual attack is their everyday reality. As a member of a congregation, school, or family, or a couple or individual, you are invited to commit to praying for our partners in mission. For regular prayer point updates, go to www.lca.org.au/international-mission/act-now/pray