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An Heroic Ministry
Verse of the day
YWI - working with...
YWI is pleased to work in association with
Fuller Youth Institute, US
Sophia Network, UK
Before You Start:
Meeting Aim: What does it mean to be compassionate? How can we become a more compassionate person? Use this session to focus on the compassionate heart of Jesus and to look at howwe can practically follow after his heart today.
Background Preparation: Read Lamentations 3:22. Spend some time reflecting on the fact that it is because of God’s unfailing compassion for us that He sent Jesus to die in our place. As you consider the sacrifices required in order to act compassionately, focus on the fact that compassion motivated God to make the ultimate sacrifice for us.
Notes for adapting: If your group tend to be very active and prefer to be ‘doing’ then it would be possible to work in a practical element to this session. Split the meeting into two parts, one for study and the second to take part in some practical acts of service for members of your church or local community.
In the news (12 mins)
Over the week or so leading up to your session make a video tape of a selection of short news stories from the television that cover issues such as natural disasters, victims of crime, troubled situations. As an alternative, cut out articles from the press - although the visual impact of television is more striking for this activity.
Hand out paper and pens to the group and ask them to write down any words that sum up how they feel as they watch the footage. Encourage the group to stick to single words rather than more lengthy descriptions. Play the tape. Share what has been written down. Discuss the mixture of emotions that are expressed – anger, sadness, helplessness, pity, sympathy, confusion etc. Be prepared for a level of apathy or detachment. Often our reactions can be dulled as we are bombarded with these sorts of images so often.
Does the footage make anyone in the group want to do something to help, or are the situations so out of reach, and we so insignificant that we feel helpless to act?
Defining Moment (10 mins)
If it was not brought up in the first activity, introduce the theme of compassion. Print out the following definitions onto separate cards:
Show the four cards and share the definitions ‘Call my Bluff’ style. Can the group choose a correct definition for the word compassion? Can they eliminate any?
Produce a blank definition card and ask the group to come up with their own definition of compassion. Explain to the group that actually all four of the above definitions are correct. (1 – Latin root; 2 – Greek thought; 3 – Hebrew; 4 – Concise Oxford Dictionary)
Compassion in action (15 mins)
Explain that while pity is a feeling of sorrow either for our own or other people’s situations or distress, compassion in contrast requires action. We can feel sad or sorry for someone and walk away having done nothing. A heart filled with compassion will always act.
Many of Jesus’ miracles were motivated by compassion. Split into pairs or small groups and give each group one of the following Bible passages (NIV or NKJV): Matthew 14:13–21, Matthew 15:32–39, Matthew 20:29–34, Mark 1:40–42, Luke 7:11–17. Ask each small group to read through their passage and consider the following simple questions:
Bring the group back together and ask each pair to feedback. Draw out the point that for each of these people or groups of people, when they encountered Jesus, his heart was filled with compassion towards them and their situations, and in each case his actions met their need. Jesus didn’t just love the people he met. He demonstrated love in action.
KEY POINT: Compassion is not the same as pity. It is never passive. When we feel compassion we will always need to take action of some sort.
The challenge of compassion (10 mins)
We have established that Jesus was filled with compassion, but how do we become more like Jesus, and start to act with compassion? It seems such a tall order, and so overwhelming. Think back to the video clips at the start of the session. We can feel so helpless when confronted with a catastrophe on the other side of the world. It is easy to give up before we have begun.
Read Micah 6:8. Hand out blank postcard sized pieces of card. Ask each person to copy out this verse in full. Encourage them to read and re-read this verse out loud to themselves as they write. Challenge the group to keep this card somewhere they will see it daily and to commit it to memory.
KEY POINT: Becoming more compassionate does not start at the other side of the world but starts inside us. In this one verse, God has made it so simple for us.
Keys to compassion (10 mins)
Explain the following - intended to help us develop and grow as compassionate people, and ask your young people to find their own way of remembering these three keys:
1. Compassion needs to be learned.
We live in an age where our focus tends to be towards our own needs, wants, and desires than to others. We have moments of compassion when we are moved to act, but if our aim is to be more like Jesus then we will start choosing to see what other people around us need, and recognising what we can do to help.
2. Compassion needs to be received.
God has a heart of compassion for the people of this world that he wants to give to us. Becoming more compassionate means spending time with God, and asking Him to fill our hearts with more of Him and less of us.
3. Compassion needs to be practiced.
Look around you at school or college. Consider what it would be like to walk in the shoes of some of the people you see everyday. Ask God to show you small ways that you can help to meet the needs of those around you. You might share your lunch, or give up an afternoon, or smile. The more you allow compassion to blossom in tiny ways, the more it will grow and flourish.
KEY POINT: We tend to think of compassion in terms of feeling desperate about people or countries in crisis far away from us. What we can do seems so limited but often this starts with the person standing next to us. Giving to charity, or buying a wristband is just a tiny part. Romans 12:9 reads ‘Your love must be real.’ This will mean being a friend to the lonely, suffering with the broken and being willing to be a part of the solution to the problems of the people we meet daily.
Reflection (10 mins)
Ask the group to hold their cards with Micah 6:8 written on and play the Tim Hughes song ‘God of Justice’ on a CD player. If you don’t have this you can find the lyrics and guitar chords and listen to the track at www.passionforyourname.com/0605newsong.htm
Encourage the group to listen to these powerful words and use this song as their prayer to God.
Sarah Taylor is the Youth Development Worker at Yatton Christian Fellowship, North Somerset, UK