Thursday, July 13, 2006

Lost Themes of Mission - Compassion...

"As God has compassion on Israel and others, and as Jesus over throws the codes of society in boundless compassion on the marginalized, so we too are called to show compassion. This is a fundamental thrust of the biblical picture of mission."

D. J. Bosch

Bosch in a chapter entitled "Reflections on Biblical Models of Mission" draws attention to missional motifs, attributes of God outworked in his redemptive plan that is woven throughout both Old and New Testaments. One theme being that of compassion, Bosch's exegesis centres on Ezekiel 16:4-7
"on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in cloths. No eye pitied you, to do any of these things for. you out of compassion for you; but you were thrown out in the open field, for you were abhorred on the day you were born. I passed by you, and saw you flailing about in your blood. As you lay in your blood, I said to you, "Live!"
I liked the Message paraphrase (sorry Bram!) "No one cared a fig for you..."

Bosch makes some observations:
This is indeed one of the most powerful "mission statements" in, the whole Bible, since it depicts God as the One who has compassion on the lost and the marginalized... It is, however, in the person and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth that the missionary dimensions of God's boundless compassion are expressed in an unequaled way.

D. J. Bosch, "Reflections on Biblical Models of Mission," in Toward the Twenty-First Century in Christian Mission. Essays in Honor of Gerald H. Anderson., ed. James M. Phillips, and Robert T. Coote
Certainly true when you observe the target of Jesus' compassion - the poor, the blind, the crippled, the leprous, the hungry those who weep, the sick, the little ones, the widows, the captives, those who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and the like (cf. Nolan 1976:21).
"As God has compassion on Israel and others, and as Jesus over throws the codes of society in boundless compassion on the marginalized, so we too are called to show compassion. This is a fundamental thrust of the biblical picture of mission."

D. J. Bosch ibid.
I feel uncomfortable in some conversations - compassion is belittled, compassion is seen as a mis-directed waste of time, to be compassionate without an end is mere humanitarianism, it is naive, something to be left to social services, a canny way in! The co-dependence issue creeps in here dealt with at depth and artically by John Walter's article at theRubicon - Compassion or Co-Dependence? Listening to those conversations - I see people lick their lips at the prospect of an excuse to not get involved, a sage nod of the head punctuating the sentiment of 'how compassionate is dependence?' How about erring on the side of compassion?

However well disguised the sentiment, the reality behind the rhetoric is that we could be guilty of "Not caring a fig ...". I feel uncomfortable because I fear that this 'waste of time', this 'naivety' represents an increasingly lost theme of mission.


Lost Themes of Mission - Holiness...
Lost Themes of Mission - Righteousness...
Lost Themes of Mission - Agape...
Lost Themes of Mission - Jubilee...
Lost Themes of Mission - Salvation...
Lost Themes of Mission - Shalom...


Thomas said...

gordon you need to show me how to get the bold writing down the side again. its cool

Keeley said...

thomas i bet you havent even read the post have you lol!!

Gordon said...

Thomas if you 'cntrl U' you can view the source which is all the code to the website (any website) scroll down until you find the post.

You'll find the code it starts with blockquote and finishes with /div withe the quote in between. Cut and paste that into the beginning of your post (don't forget to change the text or you'll get my Bosch stuff!!)

by the bay said...

Someone just gave me an example of inappropriate bible reading to a group of children and it was a passage from Ezekiel. I agreed heartily, and we all laughed at the thought. But then I read my son the quote from your entry, and he was completely mindblown, and wants to go off and read Ezekiel. Perhaps it's ok in small doses!!

Great link to Rubicon. I am so pleased to see my new corps demonstrating what I think is 'intelligent compassion' in the neighbourhood.

by the bay said...

Further, I took the thread of discussion on 'intelligent compassion' over to the Franciscan discussion board along with your links to Rubicon etc, and after a lot of tooing and froing, it was said that perhaps we need to better understand the nature of the poverty we are addressing. Maybe it is a poverty of need to experience the practical love of Christ through the church even if it fails to directly address the recipient's failings of lazyness or irresponsibility. Perhaps, like all of us, they/we just need to experience the love of God through the soup rather than have the needs of our entire mental outlook addressed before breakfast! It is hard to feel 'used', by those who take what they need and leave what we consider to be most valuable. This truth can also be spoken in love.

Andrew Bale said...

Compassion is not conditional to the unenlightened but the more we become exposed to the light the more God expects from us. This is clearly exemplified in the gospels – look at the way Jesus dealt with the woman caught in adultery – not only does he forgive but her he actually refuses to condemn her – compare this to the ‘woes’ he pours on the Pharisees or the extreme demands made upon the rich young ruler (a righteous man!).

Ezekiel 16 is a pretty good historical narrative for TSA. It starts with compassion but it ends with very severe judgment. God shows compassion and immense patience to the lost but has very limited patience and high expectation upon the apparently righteous.

God always looks for a return on his love - the end of Ezekiel 16 shows God balancing the books.

The key to mission is making sure that we ‘care a fig’ about the right things. Compassion is not a scatter bomb but is a weapon of precision. Our targets should be those who are ‘white unto harvest’, we need to listen to Christ so that we are certain we are fishing out of the right side of the boat. Yes - we go to all people everywhere proclaiming the gospel but - armed with (compassionate) discernment - we are either successful or shake the dust of our feet and move on.

There is no end to the amount of times we must forgive and we must of course love as we have been loved but that does not permit us to randomly (and repeatedly) cast pearls before swine. The first requirement of effective mission must be compassion but hot on it’s heels must come discernment and knowledge. In addition, we must not forget that we are called to warn as well as encourage and (within our own ranks at least) reprimand as well as forgive.

Permanently set apart for Christ


Gordon said...


"God always looks for a return on his love..."


thanks for stuff to mull over as ever.

Wendy said...

"We are either successful or shake the dust of our feet and move on." I'm intrigued to know what "successful" mission looks like. Jesus told the woman who committed adultery to, "Go now and leave your life of sin." We aren't told if his mission was successful. John 8 goes on to describe Jesus as the light of the world. A shining light diffuses into the surrounding darkness - isn't that what we are called to do? This image sits more comfortably with my understanding of compassion and mission, than the "weapon of precision" laser beam effect you describe.

I shall go and think about this further.