Compassion in Preaching

by Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
(Loyal Pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana for over 42 years)

Jude 22b, "And of some have compassion, making a difference."

First came the light. Then the firmament. Then God lit the starry host. Then He made the fish of the sea and all the tribes of the animal kingdom. After that God was ready for man. He made man in the image of Himself. It was marvelous. Every tree that grew was pleasant to the eyes. Rivers flowed peaceably through verdant valleys. Every sound was a melody Every scene was a delight. There was no war to unrest the breast; no sickness was there to cause a fear of death. The leaf never withered; the wind never chilled. No perspiration ever moistened the brow. There was no profanity to curse the ear. There was no weariness, no heat, no cold. No blossoms were smitten by a tempest. Man had not learned to sigh or weep. There was no withering frost to chill the rose. There was no shadow of guilt ever known. For Adam there were choirs of birds to sing to him.

Yet something was missing! Adam needed someone to share with him. He yearned for companionship. He longed for communion with a kindred soul. He needed one whose wants and joys were like his own. The virgin world was cold and blank.

HERE SHE COMES! Dressed in all the beauty for a human being to possess! Milton said, "She was adorned with what all of heaven and earth could bestow to make her amiable. Grace was in her steps. Heaven was in her eye. Every gesture possessed dignity and love. Perfection was stamped upon her. The sons of God shouted for joy, the morning stars sang together, and Eden was transformed! The earth was sad, the garden wild, the hermit sighed, until woman smiled."

Not a creature since Adam has escaped that need for companionship. The weary housewife, the trudging laborer, the busy stu- dent, the aged mother, the harried boss and, I must confess, the preacher behind the pulpit-all have a need for someone to offer to them compassion.

Compassion is the nurse given to mankind. Compassion cares for the helpless. It mothers the orphan, feeds the hungry; clothes the cold, helps the helpless and raises the fallen. Compassion shines upon coldness and warms it. Compassion shines upon suffering and relieves it. Compassion shines upon sorrow and cheers it.

God has given us His men and has called them from the north, east, south and west to stand behind pulpits to have compassion upon mankind.

Her name is College Wife, USA. She was married to her child- hood sweetheart. They lived in an apartment and sacrificed for years. Finally they were able to buy a little house. A small down payment was made, and monthly payments were paid. They drove an old rattletrap for years; now finally they are able to get a small new car. Things are looking up! Her husband got promoted at work. She sings in the choir; he is an usher. They both teach Sunday school classes.

One Sunday night her husband walked the aisle during the invitation. She wondered why When they got home, he said to her that God had called him to preach. Suddenly all of her dreams were ended; the air castles were broken on the pavement of providence! They put the house up for sale. They sold the new car and bought an old one and put what belongings they had in a U-Haul trailer and came to Hammond, Indiana, to attend Hyles-Anderson College. They couldn't afford a little house like they had back home. They couldn't even afford one of the nicer apartments. The little house has now been traded for an attic apartment. The shiny new little car has now been sold, and an old one has taken its place. Her husband enrolls in college. He goes to college at 7:00 a.m. in the morning and gets through just in time to go to work. He works into the night and gets home and has a few hours to sleep. She hardly sees him. Oh, by the way, she has a few children for whom she cares. No longer does he come in at 5:30 after a busy day's work to spend the night with the family She who was Miss Typical Housewife now is Miss Typical College Student's Wife. There are four years, maybe five, maybe six, maybe more before it will all be over. She needs a man of God to stand behind the pulpit on the Lord's Day who feels her heartache, who feels her loneliness and who really cares and offers compassion.

Her name is Grandma. She has seen her last child leave the marriage altar. Her husband was taken to Heaven. She tried to keep house as long as she could, but she began to fall. She couldn't see too well. Her hearing was failing. Her hands were trembling. Her brow is furrowed, her face is wrinkled, her shoulders are stooped, her steps are uncertain. One day the children had a meeting. They had to do something with Grandma. She suggested that they put her in a rest home. Ungrateful children said, "Well, if that's what you want, that's what we'll do, Mother;" and there she sits with hands that never open a letter, ears that never hear the ring of a phone, cheeks that never feel a kiss, feet that never take her outside, eyes that never see loved ones or friends. She hardly knows her grand- children, and there she sits fellowshipping with her memories- memories of days when she washed and ironed and cooked and cleaned house and was in the busy activities of rearing a family, but now those days are gone!

A church group came by the rest home. They said they were running a bus to church. Now she can get on the bus and ride to church. There she sits in the auditorium. She needs a man of God to walk to the pulpit, to open the Book and offer her compassion. She needs to feel that someone cares, for compassion makes a difference!

His name is Johnny. His address is Ghetto, USA. He is a bus kid. He doesn't know where his daddy is. One day his parents called him in and told him that Daddy was leaving. His only Christmas is if the church remembers. He has never had a birthday cake or seen a new pair of shoes on his feet. He has never heard, "You are a cute little fellow." Such words as steak, love, peace and kindness are part of a foreign language as far as he is concerned. He didn't know he wasn't normal until he saw other boys and girls that had nice things. His mom leaves for work every morning early and comes back home late at night. He may suspicion you at first a little bit, and he may disturb your worship service, but he needs somebody to care. Oh, I know, buses are expensive. Your auditorium is pretty You now have a good drive-in crowd, and Johnny is a financial burden, but there he sits covering up a hole in his pants. Little Johnny needs someone to car. He needs a pastor who has compassion which makes a difference!

I can relate to little Johnny The first toy I ever owned the church gave to me. The first hamburger lever ate was bought for me by the church. The first balloon I ever blew up I got at church. I know!

I will never forget the day that I walked into the Fernwood Baptist Church as a five-year-old lad. The Beginner Superintendent whose name was Mrs. Bethel, took me to the Beginner Depart- meant. She put me on her knee. My little bare feet were obvious. My knees were showing through the holes and through the patches of my pants. I had on a little white T-shirt, and I noticed that all the other little boys and girls had on shoes and the boys had white shirts and ties. Mrs. Bethel put me on her knee. She said, "Boys and girls, we have a visitor this morning. His name is Jackie-boy Hyles. Aren't we glad to have him?" Nobody said a word. Then Mrs. Bethel looked at me and said, "Jackie-boy, Jesus loves you" I'll never forget how I felt! Mama had told me that, but nobody else had ever told me! I looked up and said the first words that I had said that morning. I asked, "Mrs. Bethel, does Jesus love me as much as He loves the little boys and girls that have on shoes?"

A tear escaped her eye and invaded my brow as she said, "Jackie- boy, He probably loves you more than He loves anybody here this morning." The joy of Heaven flooded my soul as I heard my teacher tell me that Jesus loved me.

There are millions of little Jackie-boys all over America who need to be contacted and brought to church, to sit in a pew and look up and see a man of God walk to the pulpit who has compassion which makes a difference.

Oh, someone needs to care Someone needs to offer compassion to the one who cannot hear the whippoorwill, to the one who has never heard the church choir or the voice of the preacher, but who sits in his world of silence while dedicated fingers reveal to him what is being said. He needs compassion; it will make a difference!

Someone needs to care about the one who has never seen a sunrise or a sunset, who has never seen a rose or a daffodil, who has never seen a meadow or a forest or the dogwood or the azalea. He has never seen a rainbow. He has never seen his own mother and father. He lives in a world of darkness following a white-tipped cane. He needs somebody to love him. He needs to feel that somebody has compassion that will make a difference!

He lives at the rescue mission. His world fell apart many years ago. He was too weak to face reality and now he sleeps on a cot with others who share his plight. His family has left him, his children do not want to see him, but he is still a creature of God, made in the image of God! He is the object of the love of God, Christ died for him, the incarnation was for him, Bethlehem's manger was for him, the shepherds watching their flocks by night were for him, the wise men from the East bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh were for him. Mary brought forth her firstborn Son and wrapped Him an swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger for him. Jesus lived for him. He lived a perfect life for him. He went before Pilate and on to Herod and back to Pilate for him. He was beaten with a cat-o'-nine-tails for him. He carried His cross up Golgotha's hill for him. He was crucified for him. He rose again after 72 hours for him. He ascended back to Heaven for him. He is now doing His priestly work at the right hand of the Father for him. He is going to come someday for him. Just a rescue mission man, and some folks would call him a bum, but God loves him! There needs to be some place where he can go and sit in a pew and look in the pulpit where somebody loves him and where a man of God can have compassion on him that makes the difference!

He lives in Backroom, USA. When he was born he brought the same joy and happiness to his mother and daddy that all babies bring until one day they noticed he was not developing as he should. He had a look on his face that was different from other children. Finally the doctor told the bad news to the parents that the child was not normal. He would never be able to learn like other children. He would join the special classes for the educable slow. Physically he will grow like others, but mentally he will never develop! He sits over on the left in the First Baptist Church auditorium with scores of others just like him. He is a teenager now. He looks to the pulpit. He needs to see a man walk in that pulpit who loves him, who hurts because he hurts and cries because he cries. He needs a man who has compassion that makes the difference!

Several years ago a lady came to our church to visit. She did not like me and she voiced her displeasure at my preaching. However, to my surprise she came back the next Sunday! She returned that night and the next Sunday and that night and the next Sunday and that night. I couldn't believe that she kept coming. Finally one day I saw her in the line outside my door after the Sunday morning service. She had a harsh look on her face. I found out later that she had come to rebuke me and to criticize me to my face. Finally it was her time to enter my office. She walked into the office; her lips began to quiver and she said, "Reverend, I came this morning to tell you all the bad things I could think of that I think about you, but I have been watching the people who come into your office. I saw you as you wept when you said, "Good-bye," to a college couple who was leaving to go out into full-time work. I saw your lips quiver and your eyes fill with tears as you talked to another one who had a burden, and then it dawned on me why I keep coming to your church. I don't like your preaching; I never have, but something draws me back Sunday after Sunday It just came to me what that something is. Reverend, it's that moist spot in the corner of your eye. It's always there. That's the reason I keep coming."

Ladies and gentlemen, that moist spot is a sign of compassion. Oh, for preaching that is strong, hard, straight and Spirit-filled! Oh, for preaching that challenges, scolds, rebukes, chastens and reproves! Oh, for preaching that is a warning against sin! Oh, for preaching about judgment, Heaven, Hell, righteousness and holiness, but may God help us to always have that moist spot in the corner of the eye! Oh, men of God, have compassion that makes the difference!


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