What is the proper balance between passion for God and compassion for His people?
Although I hope every Christian experiences a genuine
encounter with the manifested presence of God, I also realize that a
supernatural encounter alone isn’t enough to ignite true revival in a
church, a city or a nation. Encounters with His presence change us, but
there is a bigger picture and a greater purpose behind it all.
Our God, “who desires all men to be saved,” wants more
people to come to Him through Jesus Christ, and that brings us to the
subject of revival (1 Tim. 2:4, NKJV). But what is true revival?
Some say all you need for revival is for God to show up.
I’ve also heard revivalists say in previous years, “Give me a crowd of
people, and I’ll give you revival.”
Real revival, however, is when both God and man show up at
the same time in the same place. That can happen only when you have
enough credibility in the human realm to make man feel comfortable and
enough credibility in the divine realm to make God feel comfortable.
We know that Mary and Martha managed to make Jesus feel
totally welcome in their house in Bethany. They did it by successfully
juggling two seemingly conflicting priorities: Mary entertained His
divinity while Martha entertained His humanity.
It was through the careful accommodation of two realms
that Mary and Martha made their house in Bethany a meeting place where
God and man came together in an atmosphere of hospitality and worship.
As far as I know, it is the only house mentioned in the New Testament
that became a habitual resting place of Jesus (see Luke 10:38-42; John
There was “something right” about Mary and Martha’s place
that drew God through the door. It seems the “Bethany” model for turning
divine visitation into divine habitation is the only way to bring the
humanity of your commu-nity into contact with the divinity in your
We must do whatever it takes to become a Bethany kind of
church, a Bethany-hearted people, and a family marked by genuine love
and hospitality. Each one must learn how to chase God while serving
man—how to worship divinity while also serving humanity.
Striking a Balance
The church is usually a little unbalanced because it is
constantly torn between the practical and the spiritual. Most local
bodies are either socially active or spiritually passionate.
Very seldom do you find a church that manages to be both.
When you do, you have found a very unusual environment where both God
and man are comfortable. It is the kind of place where true revival is
most likely to break out.
If God is comfortable there, then that church has
credibility in the heavens. If the church body is actively compassionate
about humanity, then it enjoys credibility on Earth.
God is searching for modern “houses of Bethany” that have
credibility in both realms. Christ’s cross depicts the divine balance we
all seek, where compassion for humanity on the horizontal plane of our
lives intersects with passion for divinity on the vertical plane of
I’ve been around some people who exhibit an unusual
ability to perceive spiritual truth and reveal a deep understanding of
God’s ways and nature. Yet the same people can hardly relate to “normal”
It is very difficult to be around “super-spiritual”
people. The problem is that they don’t have credibility in the human
realm because they seem to care little whether people live or die,
prosper or perish. They see them as bothersome distractions from their
The church has always wrestled with the extreme
attraction of intimacy with God to the exclusion of everything else. The
ascetic school of thought held that the highest service to God was done
in total isolation from all worldly distractions.
But if you know Him, you should make Him known. If God put
something in you to pass on to others but you separate and segment
yourself from society so that you never touch anybody, what good are
you? (See Matt. 5:13.)
You can worship God all day long, but He may be trying to
tell you: “I would really like to see some of the glory I poured into
you released and sprinkled over someone else. You are My hands and feet
in the earth, so carry My presence with you into the world of men.”
You will know you have credibility with man when you can
call for humanity to come to your house for a visit, and the response
is: “We can trust them. Why? Because they fed us when we were hungry,
and they clothed us when we were cold. They sheltered us when we were in
need, and they cared for us when we were sick. They even visited us in
prison when no one else cared whether we lived or died” (see Matt.
Passion Should Beget Compassion
Some churches never affect their communities. They’ve
given the people who live in them a distinct impression that says, in
effect: “That church couldn’t care less about us. All they care about is
God, and He doesn’t seem to care about us, either, or the folks who
claim to be His people would show it.”
Churches that lack the basic fruit of God’s love in action
have no credibility with their communities because they have no works
to back their words. Credibility really matters.
Nearly two decades ago, my good friends, Bart and Coralee
Pierce, went to Baltimore to start a church. Bart said the Lord told
them, “‘If you will take care of the ones nobody wants, I will send you
the ones everybody is after.’”
Pastor Pierce started ministering to the drug addicts, the
gutter people and the down-and-outers whom nobody else wanted. Miracles
soon followed, and things began to improve in the city. Before long the
up-and-outers started coming too.
When people see that you are compassionate toward
humanity, they quickly realize they can trust you because you have
earned credibility in their realm by backing your words with works.
Until the church comes to the place where divine passion
and human compassion meet, there will be a credibility erosion. Nothing
is accomplished when we merely point out the problems of our communities
without providing solid solutions. I’ve devoted most of my energies in
the last few years to creating hun-ger for God’s presence in the church,
but I am painfully aware that we will fail if our in-creased passion
for God does not produce increased compassion for man.
Jesus established a precedent for valuing godly action at
least as much as gatherings and principles of godly living. Twice in the
Gospel of Luke, He answered rebukes from religious leaders for healing
people on a religious day when they thought He should devote Himself to
purely spiritual activities (see Luke 13:15-16).
In the sense that Mary and Martha are a team, it is true
that helping the hurting is as much an act of worship as anything else.
How can we expect people to accept our offer to supply food for their
souls if they can’t trust us to provide food for their bodies?
If you lose your ability to be compassionate toward man,
your ability to be useful to God in the world is limited, no matter how
passionate you become toward Him. Why? Because it takes both Mary and
Martha to entertain dvinity and humanity together under one roof.
God wants to fellowship with humanity, and humanity
desperately needs to fellowship with divinity. Our lives and our
churches become the meeting ground at the point where passion and
compassion meet in God’s name.
Humanity is blindly searching for its lost spiritual
heritage and home. Some churches have learned how to create a place
where man can rest, and a few have even learned how to create a place
where God can rest.
But God is looking for a place where divinity and humanity
can rest together. It’s up to us to restore the Garden of Eden and make
our churches a place where God and man can walk and talk together.
Jesus Was Spiritual and Practical
We cannot overlook the human factor in our corporate
pursuit of God’s presence. There are many Christian leaders who have the
ability to lead people deeply into the realm of the Holy Spirit.
The problem is that many of them fall into the disjointed
parade syndrome. They get so far out in front of the God-chaser parade
that they leave the people behind.
Jesus was always aware of the practical needs of His
followers. He took it upon Himself to cook the disciples a fish barbecue
on the shore (see John 21:3-13).
At least twice, Jesus’ consideration for the humanity of
the crowds following Him into wilderness areas caused Him to interrupt
His teaching to tend to their physical fatigue and hunger. Each time He
had them sit down while He arranged a miracle to feed thousands using
fish and a few loaves of bread (see Matt. 14:19-21; 15:35-39). Jesus
understood that it takes Mary’s passion for divinity and Martha’s
compassion for man to create the proper atmosphere where God and man can
sit down together.
It is nearly impossible to take people into God’s presence
when their stomachs are growling and the temperature is 130 degrees.
Things will change quickly if you erect a shelter to block the sun, give
them a place to sit and feed them.
I’m convinced God wants us to be normal and supernatural
at the same time. In my opinion, the house of Mary and Martha presented a
perfect blend of the two.
Together, the two sisters made Jesus feel perfectly
comfortable under their roof. The blend was simple: Mary entertained His
divinity while Martha entertained His humanity.
It is nearly impossible to tell a family about God’s love
when they are shivering in the cold without dry clothing or coats. The
church is surrounded by hurting humanity, and every need is an
opportunity for miraculous ministry.
We serve a Master who plainly said He did not come to cure
the whole, feed the full or heal the healthy (see Matt. 9:12-13). If we
make it our aim to accept and recruit only the whole, the full and the
healthy, then we may miss the one visitor we need more than any
On the other hand, if we dare to chase God while, in
practical ways, serving others, including the unlovely and unwanted, we
are certain to see this one visitor enter our presence. He will feel
comfortable in our midst because He is unashamedly attracted to human
need and spiritual hunger.
Tommy Tenney is founder of the GodChasers.network and
author of several books, including The God Chasers (Destiny
Image) and Trust and Tragedy (Thomas Nelson). Tenney lives in
Louisiana with his wife, Jeannie, and their three daughters. Adapted
from Chasing God, Serving Man by Tommy Tenney, copyright © 2001.
Published by Destiny Image. Used by permission.