Seek the Source1
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?
- 1 John 3:16-17
Today’s passage circles back around diagnostically. If we feel no pity when faced with a brother or sister in need, something has gone wrong with our relationship with God.
Don’t run off and start beating yourself up over this if this is you. And don’t start throwing rocks (or forwarding Connect Devotionals) at someone in your social circle. That’s not what John does or what he wants you to do.
As Steve likes to say: “Shame is the enemy of learning.” When your check-engine light comes on, you don’t push the car off a cliff; you take it to a mechanic.
Jesus’ great compassion for us fueled his desire to lay down his life for us. We can’t lay down our lives for our brother and sisters without this same compassion flowing through our veins. And we get this compassion from Jesus.
We need the love of God to be in us before we can show the love of God to our brothers and sisters. That sounds so obvious when it’s written out. But it’s so counter-intuitive in the moment. In the moment, if we find ourselves failing to feel compassion or pity on a needy brother or sister, we reach into our emotional core and try to generate those feelings from scratch. We might as well try to create a new cosmos. It’s just not within our power.
The source of our compassion isn’t our effort or willpower. Jesus is the source. If we find ourselves lacking compassion, we have to re-examine our connection with Jesus. Something has gone wrong upstream. The problems we see in our relationships with each other almost always have their roots in some dysfunction in our relationship with Jesus. Return to him and work on that relationship and you’ll discover rivers of compassion filling the river of your relationships all the way to the banks (did you see that little river metaphor / finance wordplay?).
How does one re-examine one’s connection with Jesus?
- Tell him you think something might be off
- Ask him to search your heart and tell you what he finds
- Listen patiently and allow his Spirit to highlight what’s gone wrong
- Knock it off (if you’re doing something hurtful to you) or Keep it up (if you just need to persevere through this season)