Compassion vs. sacrifice

I’ve been reading through the gospels for the past few weeks, and came to this passage in Matthew:

“And it happened that as He [Jesus] was reclining in the house, behold many tax-gatherers and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “why is your Teacher eating with tax-gatherers and sinners?” But when He [Jesus] heard this, He said, ‘it is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means, ‘I desire compassion and not sacrifice,‘ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

– Matthew 9:10-13


The burden on my heart to preach the gospel in the context of fighting for the justice of the oppressed continues to grow as I seek the Lord and study His word. Jesus made the bolded statement above to the Pharisees as they marveled in incredulity that Jesus would stoop so low as to eat with sinners and tax-gatherers. These Pharisees were zealous in their Quest for perfection as regarded the Law, and they thought that Jesus would be proud of them for disassociating themselves from the unclean, from those who failed in keeping the Law.

And yet the exact opposite is true. Christ tells this group of Pharisees to go and learn a part of the Law they had missed entirely. The phrase ‘I desire compassion and not sacrifice’ is originally written in Hosea 6:6, when God is lovingly calling the wayward tribes of Israel who refused to repent of their sin and guilt, back to Himself.

The Pharisees talking with Jesus were blind to their own sin, proud of the fact that they obeyed the Law and kept themselves clean. But the gospel will not reach the dirty and broken unless it is taken to them. God could care less about how perfectly we follow the Law if we fail to love those He created who are eternally lost and wandering in the darkness.

His gospel is centered on the fact that on our own we are helpless, broken, lost and unclean. He, and He alone, can fix our plight. Only the blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse, repair, bind-up, and heal us. Without His blood we are without hope. There is nothing we can do to make ourselves clean enough to merit His favor and enter His presence. Yet in His great compassion He made a way for us to be saved, and then in His grace and mercy He allows us to take that same compassion we were shown and pour it out on the lost around us. Oh, how much we miss when our focus in on ourselves and our own obedience, rather than giving ourselves away in compassion to the lost.




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