Mission Begins with Compassion and Humility
By Bishop Chris Giesler
Preaching Texts: Luke 14:1, 7-14, Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
There are two inherent risks in doing mission work in God’s kingdom, and that is spiritual and cultural pride. The notion that I have something of either spiritual or cultural value that you don’t. In such a relationship, I become the superior, and you become the recipient of my generosity. The scripture readings assigned for this Sunday from Luke and Hebrews give us a good picture of where God wants us to be as we seek to help others.
There are two necessary components to wanting to do mission work, compassion and humility. Our texts for this week do not say much about compassion, but they have much to say about humility. For now, let us at least acknowledge that compassion is a necessary start toward mission. We must have our hearts broken for the suffering of others sufficiently so that we are willing to act in some way to alleviate that suffering. This could be either for temporal or spiritual needs.
To follow through on that compassion with a sense of humility is equally as essential and was undoubtedly the way that Jesus not only acted, but it was central to his teachings. Humility is nowhere more profoundly shown than in the upper room when Jesus, the teacher and leader, washed his disciple’s feet. More than once, Jesus was heard to have said, “the first shall be last, and the last shall be first.”
In our Gospel lesson, we read about Jesus’ attendance at the sabbath feast of a local church leader. Here Jesus notices that when the guests arrive, they seek to place themselves at the seats of honor. Of course, they are trying to improve their social status by appearing as important as they can be. But Jesus says that the Kingdom of God looks very different. His instruction is always to take the lowest seat possible, and if you are invited up, well and good. The lesson being that in God’s kingdom, the humble will be exalted, and those who seek to exalt themselves will be humbled.
Jesus goes a step further in his instruction on just whom you might invite to your own dinner party. Jesus is saying that if we only ask those from whom we want a return invitation, we are far from God’s intent. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. The kingdom of God is not about climbing the ladder; it is about serving the needs of those who most need it. This is what humility is all about.
The letter to the Hebrews stresses some of these same points. Here, the writer notes:
- Let mutual love continue.
- Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that, some have entertained angels without knowing it.
- Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you were being tortured.
- Let marriage be held in honor by all by being faithful to your marriage vows. In other words, keep your promises.
- Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.
All of this stresses the need for us to do mission out of our deep compassion and with a true sense of humility.