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Will you be ‘vulnerably compassionate’ this new year?

Unsplash/Kelly Sikkema
Unsplash/Kelly Sikkema

We’ve all been there.

Someone on the street asks you for money to buy some food. You’re 99% sure they’re going to spend it on something else, probably alcohol or drugs. Do you give them money anyway? Or do you walk on?

It’s difficult. None of us wants to be ripped off or taken advantage of to fund someone’s addiction.

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It’s the exact same situation local missionaries like Pastor Alexander in the former Soviet Union encounter every day on the streets of cities and towns from Ukraine to the frozen Siberian north. Like all local missionary pastors supported by our ministry, Slavic Gospel Association (SGA), Alexander and his family live on very little and serve those whom others ignore or look down on, including prisoners and those with addictions.

A woman approached Alexander and his wife with a familiar story. She was hungry and needed a bus ticket to get home. And, she said, she’d just come from the cancer treatment clinic.

“Although we were sure she was cheating us, we went to buy food and gave her money for a ticket,” Alexander said.

Gullible? No! Alexander had his own motive: a few rubles from his own pocket were nothing compared with the opportunity to share the Gospel and shoot straight with her.

“I told her: ‘Even though you’ve deceived us, you’re now faced with the choice to be reconciled to Christ, or to give up his (gift of) salvation.’ We didn’t feel sorry about the money, because she heard the Gospel.”

Willing to be vulnerable

Pastor Alexander taught me a powerful lesson heading into this New Year. My heart can easily become cynical and hardened. I can grip my money tightly. I can turn away from those I suspect are lying to me, attempting to deceive me. In doing so, I can keep the Gospel to myself. But as we enter 2023 I ask myself, is that what Jesus came to show us?

I believe you and I — just like Pastor Alexander and all followers of Jesus — are to make ourselves “vulnerably compassionate” this New Year. Jesus expects us to take risks so we can boldly share the Gospel, to allow Christ-like compassion to rise above our suspicions and cynicism.

Why would Jesus want you and I to make ourselves vulnerable in this way?

Because sharing the Gospel is of the greatest importance. That’s why he came to Earth as a vulnerable baby in a hostile world — to seek and to save the lost, the liar, the criminal, the addict. And now he’s looking for risk-takers to share the Gospel with someone.

Who’s willing to be vulnerable? To be compassionate, despite the risks?

Compassion that costs

With winter arriving, Pastor Alexander took his dad to the local market to buy new shoes. They walked past a man begging in a wheelchair who called out to them. “I expected him to ask for money, but instead he gave me a coin and said: ‘Give it to the man across the street playing the accordion. His hands are frozen, but he cheers up the passers-by’.”

Many people with full wallets passed by, but this disabled man’s gift cost him — just like the poor widow in Luke’s Gospel giving her last mite.

If such a man can show such flagrant compassion, shouldn’t you and I — with Christ’s riches in our hearts — be willing to do the same and share the living Hope within us?

Will you be “vulnerably compassionate” this New Year?

Michael Johnson is president of Slavic Gospel Association (SGA), a mission that supports an extensive network of local churches and missionary pastors across the former Soviet Union. SGA has launched its Ukraine Winter Heat and Hope Project in partnership with local churches across Ukraine.

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