“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36). It is very instructive to note that what moved the heart of Jesus was not the lack of food, shelter, health, money or education. What drew out compassion from Him was the lack of shepherd type leadership. Leaders are desperately needed who see the spiritual needs of people more than their physical needs. At the root of every physical problem is a spiritual solution. I am not saying that food is not needed to sustain physical life. Jesus fed the five thousand (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15). But in providing food, Jesus was pointing to Himself as the only means of true satisfaction.
After Jesus had performed many miracles and fed the five thousand, the crowds looked for Him “on the other side of the sea”. Jesus challenges them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” (John 6:25-26).
It is critically important that we are moved with compassion for those without Christ for the right reason. Oswald Smith defines compassion as “love in action”. Are we moved into action with the message of God’s love in the gospel as we watch the world flounder in chaos and suffering? That is the message that brings healing and wholeness, first to the soul, and then to the life. This is the work of a true shepherd with the heart of God empowered by the Holy Spirit.
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