Compassion and Conviction
Highland Park, IL, Uvalde, TX, and Buffalo, NY represent three of the 315 mass shootings in 2022. Record highs in mass shootings is what happens when you combine strong 2nd Amendment convictions with apathy for gun violence.
60 bullet wounds were found in Jayland Walker’s body following a police chase with 8 Akron Officers. Excessive use of force is what happens when you combine racism in police training with passivism from local politicians.
White House staff members are testifying before the House regarding the January 6th attacks at the State Capital --- which includes testimony on President Trumps involvement. Domestic terrorism is what happens when extreme political convictions are mixed with Nationalism and revisionist history instead of protecting the well-being of our country
Within the infamous Southern Baptist Convention a special task force reveals decades long corruption created by a culture of sexual abuse and coverups amongst denominational leaders and local pastors. Corruption is what happens when the church cares more about money and power than loving God and our neighbors.
And the nation is left with this question: Where is the faithful pursuit of compassion and conviction in America?
Where is compassion for victims of gun violence?
When while Black and Brown bodies be treated with care?
When will politicians uphold their end of the bargain?
When will the fight for the poor? When will the church protect women? When will the church confront abusers? When will it throw out corrupt leaders?
When will we see faithful pursuit of compassion and conviction from the people who say they love God the most?
Because you can’t be compassionate if you don’t have love.
And If you don’t love your neighbor, then you can’t love God.
And If you don’t love God then you cannot be Christian.
And If you aren’t a Christian then your religious convictions are probably Eurocentric or Eastern ideas wrapped in moral imagination.
And after all of that we’re left with social, political, and religious movements that are lusting for power, money, and respect.
That’s why we must carry compassion & conviction. Because conviction without compassion looks like:
Faith without works.
Meanwhile compassion without conviction looks like:
Pity with a hint of sorrow.
But we need to have compassion and conviction, so we have the substance and the work of the Word.
Because society needs a church that realizes listening to someone’s pain doesn’t mean you’re neglecting your faith.
You can disagree with abortion and listen to a woman who in crisis
You can disagree with same-sex marriage and still recognize the couple’s right to adequate healthcare.
You can disagree with a person’s religion and still support their right to live peacefully in America.
Listening to someone’s pain and considering their story, doesn’t mean you’re leaving the faith. It means that you’re able to have compassion for neighbor while keeping your convictions.
But Instead of leading with compassion we’ve majored in rejection.
But our text reveals that God chooses people who are rejected to accomplish good works.
Because rejection doesn’t cancel God’s plan for your life.
First, I want to discuss the necessity of compassion and conviction because God uses the Others.
Look at verse 1 --- Jephthah was a soldier from the region of Gilead.
The opening sentence of Jephthah’s story is a call statement. No matter how you feel about Jephthah or what anyone says about him --- Jephthah is called to be a Soldier.
No one can take away his calling. Family can’t take it away. Friends can’t take it away. Enemies can’t take it away. Nor can the church take it away.
The only person who can give or take away Jephthah’s calling is God.
Let me encourage someone who is struggling to embrace their calling because of rejection --- No one can take away your calling. They didn’t give it to you and they can’t take it away.
So, don’t allow family, friends, teachers, bosses, social media, or wrong decisions distract you from the people, places, and skills God has called you to.
Do whatever is necessary to fulfill the assignments God has called you to.
Look back at verse 1 --- Jephthah is called to be a Soldier, his father is named Gilead, but his mother is a prostitute.
Don’t overlook that in the text. Jephthah’s momma is a prostitute. That isn’t a typo. There’s no alternate meaning. It means exactly what is says.
Jephthah’s father – left his home where his wife and kids are to have sex with a prostitute. That’s important to the story, because the next verse tells us how Jephthah was treated by his family.
But I want to focus on this for a minute.
Gilead is a prominent, rural city in the Jordan region. It’s where some Israelites settled when they were released from Egypt.
Gilead is known for producing excellent crops. So, if Gilead was a city in Texas it would be known for the sweetest watermelon and corn. Or juicy tomatoes and spicy peppers.
So, Jephthah’s father isn’t poor. Jephthah is born into a wealthy family, who lives on a big farm, and lives a good country life.
However, Jephthah’s dad decides to cheat on his wife with a prostitute. In ancient Jewish culture there are two reasons a woman would become a prostitute:
First – she was a widow or an orphan. A single or fatherless woman couldn’t just work anywhere. She didn’t have the job opportunities women have today.
So you couldn’t just tell Jephthah’s mother to “Just Get a Job”. And if you did say that to her --- one of the few options she had was prostitution.
Second – a woman might become a prostitute as a career because it paid good money. And many non-Jewish women became sex workers because of how much money the industry made.
Therefore, Jephthah’s mother chose prostitution over poverty.
But here’s the issue I have with Jephthah’s family --- his brother’s bullied him because of the sins of THEIR father.
Let’s not be mistaken. Gilead chose Jephthah’s mother. Gilead chose to cheat on his wife. Gilead chose to bring a new woman into the family. But Jephthah is treated as if he was responsible for his father’s actions.
No, Jephthah had nothing to do with his father’s infidelity. But even if he did --- he still didn’t deserve the treatment he was given.
No child chooses their family. Regardless of the issues in a family, every child deserves respect.
An unborn child doesn’t force their parent into addiction.
An unborn child doesn’t create an abusive household.
An unborn child doesn’t tempt their parents into cheating.
An unborn child doesn’t force a couple to divorce.
An unborn child doesn’t force a parent to neglect their responsibilities.
So, no child deserves to be mistreated because of the actions of their parents.
Even moreso – we see in the text that passive parenting leads to a dysfunctional family.
Look at verse 2 --- When his wife’s sons grew up, they threw Jephthah out. They told him, “You’ll get no inheritance from our father. You’re the son of that other woman.”
Gilead knew the sons from his marriage disliked Jephthah because of his mother is a prostitute, yet he chose not to intervene. What type of father willingly ignores his son’s crisis.
Some might argue that Jephthah isn’t Jewish. So Gilead chooses to be passive because of the social and religious issues this creates. Even if that’s true, Gilead still has a responsibility to protect the well-being of his son.
If Jephthah’s mother is Jewish, then he would have only violated the Jewish law on marriage.
But if she was a Canaanite woman – not only would he violate marital laws, but he would be breaking his biological, ethnic, and religious heritage.
So, an inheritance, which runs through the father’s lineage, would belong to a son who is not required to obey the civil, communal, or religious laws associated with the Jewish community.
Based on the text we can infer that Gilead’s family has strong religious convictions, but that doesn’t mean the family should not have compassion toward Jephthah.
Let me bring this home for the people in the pews:
Yes, your theology opposes your child’s relationship and they still deserve compassion.
Yes, your theology opposes abortion and the mother still deserves compassion.
Yes, your theology opposes divorce and the couple still deserves compassion.
Yes, your theology opposes drug use and the person addicted to drugs still deserves compassion.
Yes, your politics are conservative and the person with progressive ideals still deserves compassion.
Yes, your politics are progressive and the person with conservative ideals still deserves compassion.
Yes, the baby was born outside of marriage and the child still deserves compassion.
Yes, your cousin goes in – and – out of jail and they still deserve compassion.
Yes, the employee dropped out of school in the 10thgrade and they still deserve compassion.
We can’t allow our social, political, and religious convictions deny compassion to the people in our lives.
Because God uses the people we reject for good works.
Point 2 --
Next, we need compassion and conviction because rejection might lead someone to sin. Sometimes rejection pushes people to find acceptance in the streets. And It’s a knock against Christians when people think they have no use for the church, because they’ve been rejected.
However, the church should be at the forefront of compassionate care. No matter the situation a person finds themselves they should find refuge in the sanctuary. But the text shows us what happens when the church lacks compassion.
Look at verse 3 --- Jephthah fled from his brothers. He went to live in the land of Tob. Worthless men gathered around Jephthah and went out ⌞on raids⌟ with him.
This narrative highlights three sins relevant to rejection:
1. Bullying --- Jephthah is thrown out of the house because his brother’s bullied him.
Statistics show that Black and Brown middle school aged girls report being bullied most. They are often the subject of rumors, name calling and insults.
So, the church should affirm young girls. Let them know they are made in the image of God. Tell them about the beauty of their skin. Teach them that God has a plan for their plan. They are not a mistake. They are created with purpose. And their purpose extends beyond their role as mother or wife.
If they aren’t affirmed at home or church, they will be affirmed on social media. Or be affirmed by boys and men who want to use or abuse them. Regardless of the mistakes a young girl might make, they should know that the church is a place of safety and support.
2. Parental Neglect --- Gilead never stops his children from bullying Jephthah. Every parent has a legal, moral, and ethical responsibility to protect the wellbeing of a child. That’s why community is important.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for youth ages 15 to 24. Additionally, UCLA reports 20% of high school students have serious thoughts of suicide, while 9% have attempted suicide.
I know it’s not like the old days when we bought into village support, but if the church doesn’t intervene when children are in need, where will they go for help?
3. Gang Life --- Jephthah joins a gang in Tob, because of his family’s rejection. If his brothers weren’t bullies and his father not passive, then Jephthah wouldn’t need to find protection and support in a gang.
It’s the family rejection that led Jephthah to the streets. I know someone sitting in the pews or watching on the internet is wondering how their child or family member turned out that way.
You gave them everything they wanted. You made sure they had the best clothes, nicest shows, and latest technology. You took them on trips and kept their accounts full of money. You did everything your parents could not and would not do --- Yet your child or family member still feels rejected.
Might I suggest that it wasn’t the good that pushed them away. It was what you said or didn’t do that pushed them away.
Jephthah’s family had everything. His family lived a good life on the farm. Yet he found protection in a gang, because of his family’s rejection.
The need for compassion and conviction isn’t a call to liberalism. I’m not saying you need to leave good doctrine at the door. But we can’t prioritize our personal opinions, political positions, and personal ambitious over loving our neighbor.
Last, we need compassion and conviction because God turns the tables.
Just like the old saying --- what goes around comes around. That’s where Gilead’s leaders find themselves.
In Chapter 10 --- God is angry at Isreal because of their sin. Israel turns back to their idols and God allows the Philistines and Ammonites to defeat them in battle.
After 18 years of defeat, Israel repents, and God ends their punishment. However, the Ammonites want one more fight.
Israel cannot protect themselves.
The former judge is dead and they need a new leader.
But the only person they can think to save them is Jephthah.
Be careful how you treat people who are powerless because God might use those very people to save you in crisis.
When Jephthah was that other woman’s kid – his brothers rejected him. Now, that he’s the leader of a notorious gang, he’s everything they need.
It’s interesting how people are humbled by adversity. When life was good and they were living on top of the word --- Jephthah wasn’t worthy of his inheritance. Now that the nation is under fire from the Ammonites, they are beginning Jephthah to come back into the community, because God knows how to humble the proud.
Look at verse 5 and 6:
Jephthah’s brothers acknowledged their weakness. They went to Tob to find Jephthah because they lost their military leader.
His brothers also affirmed his skill because they offered him to be commander of the Army. The one person who wasn’t worthy of his family’s love and protection is very person chosen for their protection.
Look at Jephthah’s response in verse 7 --- He asks his brother’s three question:
1. Don’t you hate me?
2. Didn’t you throw me out of my father’s house?
3. Why are you coming to me when you’re in trouble?
Jephthah knew the response to every question he asked. But he wanted the satisfaction of hearing his brothers beg for his help. When God uses you to help your enemies make sure you check your heart. If you’re not careful, you’ll care more about retribution than completing the assignment.
Listen, Jephthah’s brothers never answered his questions. He never got the satisfaction of a response. Just like someone who are waiting for an apology you’ll never get. While you want an apology God is redeeming your situation by turning the tables in your favor.
Don’t be so petty that you lost sight of the goal. You’ll mess around a miss the assignment because you’re trying to score a petty victory.
How you engage your enemy’s crisis reveals your character. Does Jephthah truly want justice or just revenge? We don’t find out in the next, but we do see how Jephthah negotiates his reward.
Even though his brothers ask for his help, he doesn’t reclaim his inheritance. We don’t know if his father is dead or alive. However, he never asks for his inheritance, he negotiates something greater. He becomes the judge of Israel.
Initially, his brothers offer him military leadership. In verse 8 they tell him he will be ruler of everyone in Gilead. But he counters their deal by demanding he be the judge of Israel. Sometimes our reward comes in ways don’t expect.
Jephthah could’ve fought for his inheritance and that’s it. However, he was given more influence than his inheritance would give. Sometimes the people, positions, and things we’re denied are less than what God will provide later.
Finally, when God turns the tables --- don’t forget to worship. Look at verse 9:
“If you take me back to fight against Ammonites and the Lord gives them to me, I will be your leader.”
Jephthah acknowledges the necessity of God’s guidance for victory. When God turns the table in your favor then God must carry you through.
That’s because prayer and worship are the proper response to overcoming rejection. Prayer and worship is like the difference between comments and DM’s on Twitter.
Prayer is the like comment section. Anyone can pray to God. A personal relationship with God isn’t required. Think about the person who never went to church but prays over their food. They acknowledge the existence of God, but lack a relationship with God.
But worshipping God is like DM’s. It’s a private space. You must have a personal relationship to worship God. When you worship God, your prayers become more meaningful because you’re growing in relationship with God.
So, we need compassion and conviction because God uses the Others for Good works.
We need compassion and conviction because rejection leads people to sin.
And we need compassion and conviction because God turns God turns to table.
But there’s one more example of compassion and conviction that I want to give before I go to my seat.
You may have heard the story about his mother. She was a teenage girl engaged to be married.
Her fiancé found out she was pregnant and accused her of sleeping with another man.
But an angel spoke to the man in his dream. The angel told the man his fiancé didn’t cheat. The man believed the angel and they became parents to a baby boy.
That’s compassion and conviction.
The baby became a boy and the boy became a man.
One day the man chose 12 men to lead. He selected them from different careers. Several were fisherman. One was an accountant.
They traveled with this man. Attending his classes. Listening to his sermons and performing miracles.
But one day his people turned their backs against him. The accused him of being a false prophet. They convicted him in a corrupt court and exchanged him for a convicted felon.
But he took the punishment in peace. He stood on his convictions that he is the true king.
He preached against stealing but forgave a thief.
He preached against the empire but healed a Roman kid.
He followed the law but healed on the Sabbath.
He preached against adultery but saved an adulterous woman from death.
He preached about obedience but ate with unbelievers.
And more than anything --- he showed compassion and conviction by dying on the cross for our sins.
His baby who almost lost his life is named Jesus. He became an immigrant to avoid assassination. Endured persecution by his own people. Was betrayed by his disciple. And took our sins upon himself so we might have eternal life.
Jesus is the ultimate example of compassion and conviction. Jesus led with compassion and never put his convictions to the side. Just as Jesus lived, so should we live with compassion and conviction.