Compassion and Justice

Welcome to Wednesday and to another great chapter of our discussion of Richard Stearns’ The Hole in Our Gospel. Each week, my co-facilitator, Jason Stasyszen and I invite you to dig into the discussion, whether you’ve read the book or not. We always welcome what you have to say and we hope that you’ll be as blessed as we are by it! Today, I’ve got the link widget (that you’ll find at the end of the post) and if you’ve written a response to the chapter, you’re welcome to add your link. Whether you add a link or not, I hope you’ll drop by and read the others’ posts as they are always tremendously insightful and challenging. Thank you to all of you who so faithfully come and take part in our discussions! God is using you in our lives!

This week, we’re discussing Chapter 4—The Towering Pillars of Compassion and Justice.

One of the major questions we’ve been looking at over the past few weeks is really that deep question that lives in all of us:

Why am I here? What is my purpose?

Richards Stearns asks it a bit differently:

What does God expect of me?

The truth in this chapter really did kind of take me out to the woodshed and beat on my flesh a little. Hosea 6:6 says that God desires mercy, not sacrifice… And although I’m typically a merciful person, it just reminded me of all the other areas of my life where I’d rather give God a sacrifice than give Him what He really wants—me. I try to make trades with Him. “Well, Lord, I’ll give you this, if I can have that.” But God doesn’t work that way! He doesn’t negotiate. He’s a dictator—but only because He really does know what’s best for me and He knows that I don’t know what’s best for me.

Stearns says that God’s expectations of me are not “mysterious or hard to discern.” But if they aren’t mysterious or hard to discern, then how come they’re so hard for me to figure out and live out?

Isaiah 58:3a says, “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please…”

In other words, I don’t mind acting like I’m about God’s business as long as at the end of the day, I can do what I want. Let me break it down further to get to the root. It’s all about me. I’m selfish.

I can’t just throw God a bone to keep Him happy. There is a cost of discipleship and it costs more than my wallet—it costs my heart and my life.

What does all of this have to do with justice and compassion?

I’m supposed to be God’s hands and feet. If I’m only using my hands and feet to serve myself, then who’s going to serve everybody else?

Stearns dedicates a whole page of this chapter to re-telling the story of the sheep and the goats, but then he re-tells it with his own twist on it. And for the benefit of those of you that haven’t read the chapter, let me share this.

“For I was hungry, while you had all you needed. I was thirsty, but you drank bottled water. I was a stranger, and you wanted me deported. I needed clothes, but you needed more clothes. I was sick, and you pointed out the behaviors that led to my sickness. I was in prison, and you said I was getting what I deserved.”

You know what struck me the deepest about this? The judgmentalness. So often, we would rather judge others than serve them. Is it any wonder that they don’t want any part of the Jesus we claim to represent? When God talks about justice and compassion for people, He’s not talking about judging and enabling. He’s talking about coming alongside of people and being the big brother or big sister or mentor or counselor or friend that they need.

I was recently telling a friend about the lesson I’m learning now about community. God is showing me that when we let others walk through the valley with us, they can help us over the rocks and gulleys. It makes it that much easier to get through. But what if you asked my help to get through the valley and I stood back and folded my arms and said, “You got yourself in there. You get yourself out!” That’s not compassion! That’s judging!

I love that Stearns ended the chapter by referring to the prodigal son story.

“But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:32)

In really simple terms, we’re all foreigners here, trying to find our way home. It should be our burning desire to link arms with others and help them find their way home, too. Imagine the grand party that will occur when all the prodigal sons and daughters go home.

Today, I choose to take my eyes off myself. I choose to take your hands and help you through the valley so that one day, we will all make it home together. Would you like to make the trip with me?

About Sarah Salter


  1. What does God expect of me?

    That is such a different way to ask that question, but the right way to ask.

    I’m with you kiddo. I have that burning desire.

  2. Sarah: I am selfish enough that I need to pray that prayer at the end every day. I cannot walk this one alone. I need Him. I need others.

  3. Sarah Salter says:

    Michael, thanks for stopping by! And I can see that burning desire in you. I’m blessed to serve alongside you, my friend!

    Bill, Amen! I’m that selfish, too! Let’s keep prayerfully surrendering. I know that God has more in store for us & for the Kingdom than we can even imagine!

  4. It costs everything. Bottom line. We need to experience that every single day. Great post, Sarah!

  5. Sarah Salter says:

    Thanks, Jason!

  6. Great post, Sarah. I love your heart for God. It is encouraging and challenging. In all of this we have to think of ourselves as the worst of all. We have to view ourselves as the least, the lowest, the most sinful, the most in need of grace. How can we judge others when we are the chief of sinners? That allows us to show grace and serve others.

  7. Sarah Salter says:

    Thank you, Ryan! We can preach the Gospel all day long, but the only ones we can implement it in are ourselves. And yes, I would definitely say that I am the most in need of grace! Good thoughts here, my friend!

  8. How did I forget to submit my link earlier?! ha!

  9. Sarah Salter says:

    Jason, I wondered about that… But I figured that since I’d linked to your site earlier in the post, maybe you were just hinging on that link to get ’em to where you are. 🙂

  10. I love the prodigal son(s) story…it reminds me that we should be celebrating the things
    God celebrates. It is also my story, I almost squandered my inheritance…but mercifully
    the Father took me back. When I remember that, my selfishness is easier to recognize
    and repeat from. Thanks Sarah for an great insight into God’s heart with your post.

  11. Yes and AMEN – I would love to and will take that trip with you.. and I agree that together we WILL get there!

  12. I was stunned by his retelling of the sheep and the goats, too. Got me POW!! Right in the kisser….

  13. Oh Sarah, this really made me think! Wonderful post! I sure have missed you *hugs*

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