Don't close the door on compassion, Stewart says

Redemption Tempe Pastor Riccardo Stewart spoke to Chapel on Monday about what compassion actually looks like. (Photo by Gillian Rea)

By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau

Modern life has been transformed by GPS, which stands for Global Positioning System.

But once Siri or Cortana helps you get home faster, another type of GPS often takes over – the Garage Partitioning Syndrome. The slowly closing garage door has become a symbol of the disconnect in our world today, and Riccardo Stewart pushed the “up” button on the subject in his Chapel talk Monday morning at Grand Canyon University Arena.

Stewart, who grew up in Southern California and was wearing his Los Angeles Dodgers baseball cap, told the story of how the church where he is pastor, Redemption Tempe, was doing a series on loving your neighbor. “You can’t love your neighbor unless you actually know your neighbor,” he told his followers.

So he sought to change that in his own life. Stewart and his wife, Holly, decided to start taking walks in their neighborhood to get to know people better, and they were startled to come across two friends who live nearby – one of them right on the other side of the alley. They had no idea their friends had been living there for several years.

“The reality of it is, if you drive through your neighborhood like we do – drive in, drive in our garage, go in our house, drive out and leave – there are certain things that you just miss,” Stewart said. “And I think it’s the same thing in the way in which we look at Christ.

“We love to talk about the miracles of Christ, as we should, but when you begin to see Jesus’ love … and the way in which he expresses that love, oftentimes it’s because He slows down, even in the midst of a huge crowd, and He’s able to show this love in ways that are rather human and would be able to help us love even better.”

That was clearly demonstrated in the Bible passage Stewart chose for his talk – Luke 7:11-17. When Jesus and a large group of followers came to the small town of Nain, they encountered a funeral procession. A widow had lost her only son, which in that era meant she was headed to a life of poverty with no one to take care of her.

When the Lord saw her, His heart went out to her and He said, “Don’t cry.”  Then He went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

Another miracle. But just as important is to pay attention to the fact that Jesus was paying attention – He acted swiftly when He saw the widow’s grief. He saw much more than a funeral.

“He sees, He feels, He tells and He acts,” Stewart said.

In our world, we encounter a funeral procession when we’re driving and simply pull over to let it go by. Jesus could have done the same thing on foot, but the important thing to see, Stewart noted, is that Jesus actually looks at the person before He performs the miracle.

“When it comes to us loving people,” Stewart added, “the first thing that we’ve got to do is we’ve got to be able to see. We are a fast-paced people, a fast-paced culture, and we don’t slow down and just look at people.”

It’s all about knowing the differences between sympathy, empathy and compassion.

Sympathy is seeing someone’s pain.

Empathy is feeling their pain.

But compassion is seeing it, feeling it and then doing something about it.

The point of the story, Stewart said, is not the miracle. It is about the woman and how Jesus looked at her with compassion.

“If we’re going to be compassionate people who love like Jesus,” Stewart said, “it is not just looking to the life of Jesus. It is allowing the transformative love of Christ to be able to change us in the way that we begin to love like Jesus, not conjuring it up on our own, meaning, if I just said this and I left it at this – ‘You see what Jesus did? Go love like Jesus’ – that would just give you more things to do. If anything, it’s just going to give you more rules and lists to follow, but the Gospel doesn’t work like that.

“When we see this story, we can’t help but see that when Jesus sees this woman, it’s just like when God sees us, that God looks at our situation. … Spiritually, we’re absolutely dead. What God does is, He does something for us and for the whole world in order to allow us to receive His compassionate love.”  

He did that by having Jesus die for us, then raised Him from the dead and gives Him to us, “that we may have life,” Stewart said.

“Then we can begin to reciprocate the same love ... that we can love the people around us,” he added.

He made one final point: We can’t love everyone the same way, but we can do for one what we wish we could do for many.

“Look at people, notice people, be present with people, take more than just sympathy," he said. "Go further to empathy and go all the way to compassion and go, ‘How can I move toward the pain of somebody else’s life and take whatever resources I have and be able to love them in the way that Jesus has loved me?’”  

● Chapel replay.

● Next week’s speaker: Ashley Wooldridge, Christ’s Church of the Valley

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].


Related content:

GCU Today: Church must solve divisions, Stewart tells Chapel

GCU Today: Stewart’s Chapel talk is one for all to hear – as one

GCU Today: Chapel talk: Knowing God supersedes good deeds

GCU Today: Merrell: Jesus' comforting love is all around us

GCU Today: Missionary on doing God's work: Just say, 'Here I am'

GCU Today: Mueller at Chapel: 'We are here to be restorers'


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Bible Verse

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

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