What is the role of compassion in evangelism? What is the best way to share our faith with non-believers? To find out, we should go to the source. Let’s see what Jesus had to say about how to make the case to friends, coworkers and family that Christ alone is the only hope in this life and for eternal life.
How Did Jesus Respond When Asked…
How can You prove you’re the promised Messiah?
“When asked, ’Are you really the one we are waiting for, or shall we keep on looking?’ Jesus told them, ‘Go back to John and tell him about the miracles you’ve seen me do— the blind people I’ve healed, and the lame people now walking without help, and the cured lepers, and the deaf who hear, and the dead raised to life; and tell him about my preaching the Good News to the poor.’” (Matthew 11:3-5)
Is it necessary to lead with compassion to open ears to hear the Gospel?
“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” (Matthew 4:23)
“Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.” (Matthew 9:35)
What are Your instructions for how to evangelize? Are words enough or are “actions” necessary too?
“And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:7-8)
“And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. Departing, they began going throughout the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.” (Luke 9:2, 6)
“…and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” (Luke 10:9)
How should I love my “neighbors”?
“And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion.” (Luke 10:31-33)
How can I get into heaven? (asked by Rich Young Ruler)
“Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’” (Matthew 19:21)
How will You separate the “wheat” (true believers) from the “tares” (false believers) on judgment day?
“For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.” (Matthew 25:35-36)
Why do You hang out with those “undesirables”?
“But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.” (Matthew 12:7)
Is what we do for others more important than what we do for our church?
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 23:23)
“…but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother.” (Mark 7:11-12)
Jesus’ Disciples Shared His Views…
Those who spent the most time with Jesus validated His approach to evangelism, recounting how Jesus healed and fed whenever He preached and emphasizing the importance of leading with compassion. Below are excerpts from Jesus’ words above, showing corresponding verses written by His disciples…
“The blind people I’ve healed, and the lame people now walking without help.”
“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know.” (Acts 2:22)
“He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing.”
“But Peter said, ‘I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!’… And all the people saw him walking and praising God; and they were taking note of him as being the one who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg alms, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.” (Acts 3: 6,9-10)
“But a Samaritan…came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion.”
“They only asked us to remember the poor—the very thing I also was eager to do.” (Galations 2:10)
“Go and sell your possessions and give to the poor.”
“For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.” (Acts 4:34-35)
“For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat.”
“If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” (James 2:15-16)
“I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice.”
“If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:2-3)
“You tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law.”
“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress.” (James 1:27)
Objections Raised by Blog Readers…
“Jesus told His disciples that they always have the poor with you.”
True, but the end of that verse they’re referencing (Mark 14:7) is “but you do not always have Me.” Jesus wasn’t contradicting His statements above; He was keeping His disciples focused on Himself for His few remaining days before His ascension.
“Christians are called first and foremost to seek and save the ‘lost’, not help the poor.”
Yes, but Jesus didn’t jump straight into soul-winning with words alone. Jesus, the Maker of heaven and earth who spoke the perfect words, still chose to lead with acts of kindness. Compassion, then evangelism, is the method He used to seek and save the lost. No pastor or Christian can “outpreach” Jesus, so we should follow suit.
“Jesus told some people He healed not to tell anybody, so He wasn’t using good deeds to evangelize.”
Yet at other times, Jesus did miracles very publicly, even waiting until large crowds gathered to maximize the glory brought to the Father, as was the case with the raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-46) and the dead man at the funeral (Luke 7:12-17). Maybe Jesus wanted some miracles kept quiet because it wasn’t yet His “time” (see John 7:6) or privacy focused people on His sincerity and not the spectacle.
“Jesus’ compassion was about love, not a precursor to evangelism.”
The love and mercy of Jesus is unmatched in human history. Yet He knew better than any of us that the benefits of a meal or healing were temporary – and that the greater act of love is bringing hope and salvation to those whose ears would remain closed without seeing His compassion in action.
“Churches can’t be expected to meet so many needs.”
Some argue that the government and compassion ministries are much better equipped. However, the Church’s decision over the past century (whether conscious or unconscious) to separate compassion from evangelism was one of the most damaging in its history. Jesus’ model for evangelism is clear from His example and words. Abdicating local missions or allowing it to be usurped has cost the Church in America dearly in terms of impact, influence, growth and perception.
“Just make disciples, then those disciples will meet more needs and take care of their own needs.”
It is true that disciples are likely to follow Jesus’ lead in mercy and diligence. However, the first step toward becoming a disciple is hearing God’s Word and accepting Jesus. And Jesus modeled and instructed us that the first step before people are ready to hear God’s Word is to “make sure they know you care so they’ll care what you know.”
“The greatest need of those in distress or poor is Jesus, therefore just preach the Word.”
Jesus knew what their true need was, but before non-believers knew who Christ was, it was their own needs that took precedence in their minds. Jesus therefore addressed their perceived need first, demonstrating His love for them in ways they could understand, and then He told them who He was (the Good News). Why did so many gather to hear Jesus speak? Yes, the motivations of most may have been self-centered, but Jesus turned the tables by challenging them all to die to self.
“Jesus sent His disciples out to tell people that the kingdom has come, not to feed the poor.”
These readers cite the verses in Matthew and Luke above that speak of Jesus proclaiming the Gospel and the Kingdom’s arrival, yet leave out the second halves of those verses about Jesus healing and feeding wherever He made those proclamations.
It’s Your Turn…
Do you agree that churches and Christians should always combine acts of kindness with the Gospel message? If not, what’s your objection?