In a call to compassion, God directs a person to earn blessing by providing goods or service to benefit others in need. Recognize the need, care about the needy, commit to doing what you can, and persevere in seeking to alleviate the need. You will earn blessing for completing the responsibilities or incur punishment for declining. The beneficiary also has a responsibility: appreciation.
We begin a bible study series on Compassion—the second module of the Living in the Image of God program. Recall (from Human Responsibilities in Living in the Image of God) that compassion is one of four cardinal human responsibilities of Living in the Image of God. Each study in the series will be presented in a short description, a ten-minute video, and a downloadable discussion guide with notes.
Our understanding of compassion is based on Christ teaching in the Beatitudes and in parables. Also, we find the dictionary definition of compassion quite consistent with Christ teaching. Therefore, we examine the dictionary definition along with the bible information. We describe as call to compassion a situation whereby God alerts a person to a need, thereby inviting the person to provide goods or service to benefit others in need. We see that a call to compassion actually is an invitation to earn blessing. The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31–46) conveys an understanding that God judges a person favorably for completing responsibilities in a call to compassion or unfavorably for declining the call. That is, the call recipient does not have any option for a neutral response (see more in Call to Compassion: Parable of the Sheep and the Goats).
Also, as we discuss in a previous study under Created in the Image of God, we understand compassion in the context of a conceptual human interactions network that God establishes for distributing human service to points of need. Every person is potentially a provider of goods and service needed by others and receiver of goods and service provided by others. Both the provider (i.e., call recipient in a call to compassion) and receiver (i.e., beneficiary in a call to compassion) have responsibilities. The provider responsibility is to recognize the need, care about the needy, commit to doing what he or she can, and persevere in seeking to alleviate the need. The receiver responsibility is to receive the provided goods or service with appreciation. We discuss the provider and receiver responsibilities in this and subsequent studies in the series.
God creates every person to represent him among others. He establishes provider-receiver relationships among people, whereby every person is potentially a provider of goods and service needed by others and receiver of goods and service provided by others. He expects every person to keep “the way of the Lord” so that he will fulfill his promise. Keeping “the way of the Lord” means “Living in the image of God.”
In this bible study session, we discuss God’s declaration of his purpose for people to understand the implications of being “created in the image of God.” Further, we discuss his explanation of the purpose in a statement to angels regarding Abraham. The information leads to an understanding that God creates every person to represent him among others: to be to other people what God would be to them if he was human like them.
He establishes a network of provider-receiver relationships around every person, which defines human responsibility to others and benefits through others. Every person is potentially a provider of goods and service needed by others and receiver of goods and service provided by others. Thus, the concept of a provider-receiver network around every person enables an understanding of human responsibilities and benefits in God’s distribution of human service to the points of need. The network is dynamic: God can insert people into a network or withdraw people from the network at any time.
Jesus used two occasions of feeding a large crowd in a remote place to illustrate the responsibilities and expectations of a person called to provide goods or services to others as God’s provider assistant. God creates every person to be a potential provider (i.e., channel for his compassion) to others. He is the ultimate provider but often channels his providing through people by placing one or more persons in position to perform the needed service as his provider assistant. The chosen person is expected to recognize the need, assess how they could help, seek God’s direction, and proceed with providing for the need as they can.
PROVIDER ASSISTANT RESPONSIBILITIES Jesus used two occasions of feeding a large crowd as practical illustrations of what is expected of a person placed in position to provide for other people. In both cases, he was ministering to a crowd of several thousand that needed to be fed. His disciples took on the responsibility, realized feeding the crowd was beyond their means, sought direction from God (this time with them in person as Jesus), and he provided food for the crowd through his disciples. The disciples were the provider assistant and the people were the recipient. We examine interactions between Jesus and his disciples, him and the crowd, and the disciples and the crowd: to understand God’s expectations of a person that he calls to provide a service for other persons.
We begin our study of Christ’s direct teaching with a two-part discussion of the Sermon on the Mount: Christ’s elaborate sermon recorded in Matthew 5–7. The sermon was a teaching on living in the image of God, which we have also described as “positive human interaction:” i.e., living and interacting with people for the purpose of representing God in everything we do and accomplishing the objectives for which he created us. The sermon consists of two parts. In the first part, he provides the principles of living in the image of God. In this study, we identify the principles as eight steps, which are described in the bible as the Beatitudes. In the second part, he describes specific examples of application of the principles.
THE BEATITUDES Part 1 of our two-part discussion focuses on the Beatitudes: the first part of the Sermon on the Mount. The Beatitudes describe eight steps (or principles) for living in the image of God. The first three Beatitudes describe human relationship with God, the third through eighth describe human interactions, with an overlap in the third Beatitude because it applies to both human relationship with God and human interactions.
The angel that foretold the birth of John the Baptist said of him [Luke 1:16–17]: “He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” We examine the message of John the Baptist in this bible study, to understand his approach to his mission and how his teaching applies to present-day human interaction. The state of human interaction as he saw it was dominated by predator-versus-prey type relationships, whereby people sought to cheat others if they could. He preached a message of repentance [Matthew 3:2; Luke 3:3], that people had to repent from the life of preying on each other and turn to God’s ways in order to be acceptable into God’s kingdom. We examine other parts of the Scripture to understand that “God’s ways” refers to a state of human interaction characterized by mutual provider-receiver relationships, in which every person is a conveyor of the image of God and a channel for God’s compassion.
In this study we will learn that human beings are endowed with unlimited authority under God to seek understanding of the nature of things and use the understanding to manage relationships and provide for the needs of the earth and its inhabitants. The authority implies collective and individual rights and responsibilities regarding relationships among people and between people and other living and non-living inhabitants of the earth.