Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, so send I you.
The first stanza of Margaret Clarkson’s hymn, “So Send I You” emphasizes the exclusive relationship with Christ. The second emphasizes the exclusiveness of the purpose and our passions as His people. When people are hard to love we must bind our hearts to the love and purpose of Christ.
So send I you to bind the bruised and broken,
O’er wand’ring souls to work, to weep, to wake,
To bear the burdens of a world aweary-
So send I you to suffer for My sake.
I have wondered if in this stanza she had on her mind the story of the Rich Young Ruler, whose wandering soul walked away from Christ. Mark’s gospel adds a phrase that Matthew and Luke omitted, “Jesus looked at him and loved him” (Mark 10:21), and to love those who do not return the love is the Christian calling, as it was part of Christ’s calling.
It seems obvious that Christ has sent us out to do what we cannot do in ourselves. The servant is to so identify with the passions and desires of Christ that all of life, every person on earth, is seen through this lens. What burdens God’s heart is to burden our hearts – just as Christ came into the world with this desire, “Then I said, ‘Here I am – it is written about me in the scroll – I have come to do your will, O God’” (Heb. 10:7). And the idea is not just that Christ came to do God’s will, but to will God’s will first. There is a very real danger of trying to accomplish this with mere human compassion, our best effort to care for others, but if we try to fulfill this passage this way, we will fail.
The Spirit works within us “to will and to do according to his good purpose” (Phil. 2:13). The God who loves the lost and loves the church will place this unique love in our hearts if we will ask Him and let Him. This is the light yoke of the Lord, to discover like Paul did, “The love of Christ compels us” (2 Cor. 5:14).
The obligations are clear enough, but they by themselves are not enough. Unless the Spirit deepens us within we simply will not do them. The Bible says that we are debtors to all, “to both the Jew and Greek to the wise and the unwise” (Rom 1:14). This is an obligation, a debt, that we cannot pay in full until the Lord returns and says it is time, that this age has ended. As the Spirit was poured into the lives of the early Christians, they considered all of their life and mission not as a burdensome onus, but as a wonderful privilege. And unless the Spirit puts His love in our hearts, this is a debt we will try to find self-justification for not paying it even in part.
The church body should have mutual compassion for one another: “…there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Cor. 12:25-26). Just like in our natural bodies, if one part hurts the rest of the body also hurts, so in the body of Christ there is to be a spiritual awareness and concern of what the entire body, each member, is experiencing.
The bruised and the broken are not always pleasant to deal with – often their wounds have left them emotionally damaged to the point that they attack those who would help, especially anyone who bears any manner of authority, even church authority. And then virtually each of us who serves become wounded warriors ourselves in some measure or another – to the point where we wince and dodge and suspect because of old attacks.
The wandering souls – whether saved or lost – would prefer us to leave them alone, and we are often tempted to do so. Even when there seems to be very little we can do, we should do it if we can in the wisdom of God. The good done to a soul, a word of encouragement, of compassion, or a helping hand, may be the only link the wanderer has with the gospel of Christ. Perhaps like the father of the Prodigal, we must let them go, but then we should also remain in prayer, on the lookout for their return.
But the teaching of Scripture is abundantly clear, that we are to love the world and the body of Christ, and this love is not because of our own compassion or interest – it comes from God. We love those who God loves, and we suffer for His sake in our love. Paul wrote:
I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?
2 Corinthians 11:27-28
Paul was no more capable of doing this in himself than are we. I am not sure than any human heart except the heart of Christ can absorb the infinite love of God in its entirety. Dwight Moody the great evangelist shared an experience he could hardly explain, one that seemed too sacred to speak much about, one where he had received such a fullness of God’s Spirit and said, “I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask him to stay His hand.” And if we are sent out like Christ was, then this is exactly the experience we need – to go to witness and care for this world equipped for the task with a spiritual passion that can come only from God.
When people are hard to love, when even the saved become testy and difficult, when world weariness seeps into our own souls, when roughness and impatience seem to be fashionable, then it is that we are to deepen our souls in the compassions of Christ. We must clarify that we serve Him and Him alone, and this means that we serve His interests and His interests alone. There is a depth of experience with God’s love that we will only experience when we feel the weakness of our own love, the failure of our own compassion, and come to Him empty, broken, and seek to have what He offers by His Spirit.
Have you failed to love like Christ? Of course you have. We all have. He sends us out to be what only He can be within us and to do what only He can accomplish through us. There is an amazing restoring power from God by letting His compassions consume our hearts. Self-interest is tiresome and even debilitating to maintain, but “those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount of with wings like eagles, they will run and not be weary, they will walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
I will not say that there is something wrong with rest and diversion when we are tired, for the scripture says, “He grants sleep to those he loves” (Psalm 127:2). Yet rest and entertainment will never do in our hearts what the Spirit alone can do. He places His love within, and we are wise if we pray, “Lord, put Your love for this world and for Your church in my heart” and believe that He will do it.
As an older pastor and servant, I have grown increasingly patterned in my responses and we will all develop over time some habits that can make us appear kinder on the outside than we are on the inside. I am leery, now, of these outward habits realizing that they may deceive me – and you – into thinking that we now have the love of God in our hearts and don’t need any fresh outpourings. If we will have the passion of Caleb, who was still fresh with desire for God in his old age, we must seek something far beyond what our habits and personality – even our best habits – can create. We need a fresh and daily outpouring of the Spirit of God in our hearts. The habit we must seek above all other habits is the spiritual discipline to search out God, to respond to His call and His Spirit’s urgings, and to seek His daily infilling.