When a significant issue becomes politicised, it creates polarisation. That is what has occurred with climate change. People hear those two words and view them through the filter of their political leanings. But what if we could take the heat out of global warming? The good news is we can, simply by understanding all the complexities of climate change through compassionate eyes.

Compassion: The Heart of God

Jesus emphasised compassion as the primary attribute of God’s nature. He said, “Be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate” (Luke 6:36). In other words, this is what God is like, now imitate him.

Compassion comes from the Hebrew word for “womb” and means “to feel the feelings of others.” Compassion is “to feel the suffering of another deeply and be moved by that suffering to act.” So, let’s look at climate change through the eyes of compassion and take the heat out of global warming!

Compassion for the Planet

We live on a beautiful planet, and there is nowhere else to go (take a moment to process!). We need to look after and have compassion for the earth.

The first expression of human impact on earth’s climate was in 1896. A few decades later, amateur scientist Guy Stewart Callendar linked global warming to CO2 emissions. And here we are 75 years later, and governments are finally waking up to the impact humans have on the planet. It is not too late to act, but we are running out of time.

More evidence of this flashes across our screens every day. From unprecedented fires to unusual weather, extreme heat, to exceptional flooding. For example, a few weeks ago, the mercury soared to a record 49.7 degrees in the village of Lytton, Canada. The following day the town was destroyed by fire.

According to BBC News, the number of days reaching 50 degrees and more has doubled since 1980. Natural disasters are increasing. It’s been reported that “nearly 1 in 3 Americans live in a county hit by a weather disaster in the past three months.”

Compassion for the People

People are affected by climate change already, and that will only increase unless we act. Sadly, developing nations are the most affected. And developed countries are the biggest polluters because of our never-ending desire for more, but at what price?

Wealthy nations need compassion for developing countries and their people. “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main,” said John Donne in the seventeenth century. The English poet and Anglican cleric was correct. Humanity is intricately woven together. Compassion for one is compassion for all.

The impact of climate change on countries like Haiti displaces people and compels them to seek safety and welfare elsewhere. According to Time Magazine, Haiti is just one of many countries that will face the most severe consequences of climate change.

Unless we address the root causes, developed nations will be inundated with climate refugees. And it is the poorest people in developing countries that will be hardest hit and least able to get help. Compassion will compel us to act.

Compassion for Affected Communities

Any plan to address climate change must consider the communities that currently rely on coal, gas, and associated industries. We cannot blithely forge ahead with little or no regard for the people whose livelihood depends on these industries. While we stand with those suffering from the impacts of climate change, we also have compassion for people working in industries who stand to lose their occupations.

With pressure from investors and international agreements, many mining towns and regions have a limited lifespan. Coal is on the way out, and other cleaner sources of renewable energy are taking over. It’s reported that coal mining is amongst the most rapidly declining industries in the world.

Compassion will cause us to work closely with affected regions to ensure they don’t become ghost towns in the years to come. Rather than a “gas-led recovery” out of the pandemic, Australia’s government should direct post-COVID spending to renewables. “Stimulus programs backing clean energy as a path out of recession would create nearly three times as many jobs for every dollar spent on fossil fuel developments,” according to a financial consultancy analysis by Ernst & Young.

Right now, we are leaving people in these communities to an uncertain future. Compassion will not abandon them; it will work creatively with each community and plan for the future NOW!

Governments must consult with the affected communities, facilitate exit strategies from coal and gas, and support them in making the most of Australia’s exceptional natural advantages. To do less is to abandon them to an uncertain and dismal future. Together, they should determine the best plan for each community and develop specific goals. What industries and activities are best suited to each area? Wine, tourism, horse studs, solar, heat pumps, wind farms, and so on. Different locations will offer distinct opportunities.

To be compassionate towards these communities involved in the extraction, use, and export of coal and gas supports a fair, planned, and sustained transition to more diversified local economies. But unless the federal government acts to support renewable energy, the Australian economy will be left behind by competitors.

Compassion for Future Generations

What sort of world are we leaving for today’s youth? And what will the world be like in generations to come? A new study published by Forbes Magazine showed that “even moderate climate change” would lead “to cascading effects of accelerated sea level rise and species loss.” The world’s environment is carefully and intricately balanced. If we don’t rise to the challenge of climate change, the future looks bleak.

Does the greatest commandment, love your neighbour as yourself, only apply to people today? Or are we to love our future neighbours too? We cannot simply wash our hands of an unfolding human tragedy. In the name of the one who calls us to love one another, it is time Christians be part of this human struggle for the future of humanity.

In the lead up to the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow in November,

Bayside Church is encouraging people who feel passionate about this issue to contact their Federal MP. Click here for more information.

I recently read a comment from a pastor who was angry about the behaviour of a politician. Nothing strange about that you may think, and I agree. What was a little out of the ordinary, though, was that the pastor suggested he’d like to do something painful to the politician and, to justify his viewpoint, he quoted the story of Jesus cleansing the Temple.

“WWJD: he would have made a whip and beat the crap out of him!”

I’ve heard a few people over the years use this story about Jesus and the whip as a license for some act of violence against another person (or people). But is that really what Jesus is doing here, and does this story encourage the use of violence?

Jesus in the Temple

Even though the account of the cleansing of the Temple is found in all four Gospels, it’s only the apostle John who mentions a whip (John 2:15). There is no mention of Jesus using the whip against a person; in fact, John reports that he used the whip to drive both the sheep and the cattle out of the Temple. John doesn’t say Jesus hit the animals either.

Jesus’ Purpose

The most important question here is, why did Jesus act in this way? What did he want to teach his followers? It certainly wasn’t to “beat the crap” out of someone with whom we disagree.

All the way through his ministry years, Jesus faced resistance from the Jewish religious leaders. Jesus came with the revelation that God, the father, was compassionate (Luke 6:36). In contrast, the predominant theme of the first century Judaism was purity, not compassion: “You must be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.” The Gospels record the constant clash of cultures between Jesus’ compassion for people and the purity code of the day. That’s what the cleansing of the Temple was all about.

Old Testament Temple law didn’t restrict the access of women or non-Jews. But over the centuries, purity laws were extended. By the time of Jesus, women and Gentiles were excluded from the Court of Israel on pain of death.

It was Passover, and space that was meant for people in the Court of Gentiles was taken up by merchants, their tables, and their animals. And that’s why Jesus’ anger boiled over. He had come for those on the margins of society, those who were often excluded by the purity laws – the unclean, the poor, sinners, tax collectors, women, lepers, the disabled, and so on. He came to bring IN those who were kept OUT by man-made religion.

Jesus’ Anger at Injustice

As Jesus is clearing the Temple, he quotes from the Scriptures, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers” (Isaiah 56:7; Jeremiah 7:11). Isaiah goes on to speak of the Temple being for the Gentiles as well (a house of prayer for all nations), a fact that many of Matthew’s readers would have been well aware. And so, Jesus’ action here becomes clear. He’s providing room for those who have been left out. Matthew tells us, “and the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.” Hang on a minute! The blind and the lame weren’t allowed in the Temple. Ah, that’s the point. Jesus consistently brought in those who were left out – and so should his church today!

Grace & Compassion

This story has nothing to do with excusing violence against someone with whom we disagree and everything to do with extending grace and compassion to people in distress. If Jesus were here today, he wouldn’t make a whip and beat the crap out of anyone.

Another occasion makes Jesus’ peaceful intentions clear. He and his disciples had been rejected by a Samaritan town. James and John (the ones most likely to make whips to beat people) suggested they could “call fire down from heaven to destroy them.” Jesus rebuked them because “the Son of man didn’t come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” But Jesus, don’t you want to beat the crap out of them? “No, I’m the Prince of Peace, not a man of violence!”

Serena Williams’ upset at the U.S. Open women’s final on the weekend has gained much attention in the news, as has the Herald Sun’s Mark Knight’s cartoon of the event.  Knight has felt the force of outrage against him, many seeing his cartoon as racist.  He has even received death threats which are unacceptable and has disabled his Twitter account.


Consider Empathy

I don’t believe Mark Knight intended his cartoon to be racist, but I do think this situation highlights a vital matter we all need to be aware of, that is, empathy: “The ability to understand and share the feelings of another;”[1] to put oneself in another person’s shoes.  Much of the commentary I’ve heard and read is from people who say that those who are accusing Mark Knight of being racist are being ridiculous.  It’s no surprise that the majority of these people are white men who have probably never experienced what it’s like to be on the receiving end of racism.

Now I realise that cartoons are expected to be edgy, satirical and pointed, but making fun of oppressed people is not satire, it’s bullying.  Satire is designed to take concepts to the extreme to show how silly they are.  If Mark Knight didn’t mean to be racist or offensive towards Serena Williams, then a simple apology would be appropriate.

Certain people are already jumping up and down about threats to freedom of speech, but there is no threat here. Mark Knight was utterly free to publish his cartoon and others are just as free to protest.  It seems we only want freedom of speech when people say what we agree with, but I’ll save that topic for another blog.

The point here is that we all need to be aware of what others face, or have suffered, in life.  We need greater empathy (understanding, compassion, identification) for one another.  What we saw from Serena Williams on the weekend was not a “hissy fit” or “dummy spit”, it was the boiling over of years of frustration from being subjected to bigoted abuse throughout her career – things that white male tennis players don’t experience.[2]

Empathy Questions

Empathy causes us to ask the questions, what is it like to be you?  What is it like to see the world through your eyes?  The only way we can know the answer to this is to ask, to talk with people of different races, genders and sexual orientations, rather than to make ill-informed judgments through the lens of our own experience.

I heard a classic example of this last week on Melbourne’s 3AW.  The Royal Adelaide Show removed three award-winning golliwog dolls from a display of handicrafts following a racism outcry on social media.  Tom Elliott interviewed Michelle Hocking, the director of the Royal Adelaide Show, and then took some calls from listeners.  It was interesting to hear the number of people who could see nothing wrong with golliwogs and thought the whole thing was a ridiculous display of outrage.  Tom Elliott naturally agreed – he’s a 50-year-old white man.  However, what if we look at this through empathetic eyes?

Golliwogs are historically associated with blackface — a performance tradition in which white performers would wear dark makeup and crudely stereotype black people.  The golliwog also inspired the racial slur “wog,” which in Britain is a derogatory term for dark-skinned people. [3] African-British writer Hannah Pool said, “unless you have been spat at, kicked or had eggs thrown at you, all while being called that hateful term, it is unlikely you will ever understand why a small doll causes such a big fuss.”[4]  Empathy.

I was talking about this with a dear friend recently.  He is of Indian descent and was adopted by a white Australian family when he was a baby.  He’s more Aussie than I am but his skin is dark brown whereas mine is white.  He told me of the horrendous bullying and racist slurs he’s been subjected to all of his life. He’s been called a golliwog and sworn at many times.  Even when he married his wife, a white woman, he was at the brunt of awful statements even by Christians.  A man in their Baptist Church asked why he was marrying a white woman: “Aren’t there enough of your type over there that you wouldn’t have to come here and marry one of ours?”

When he was 12, he was doing some voluntary work at the World Vision stall at the Easter show, signing people up for the 40-Hour Famine.  A middle-aged white woman told him, “All black people should be dead.  If they can’t look after themselves, we should just bomb them all.”  Fancy saying that to a young boy!  As a white guy, I’ve never been at the brunt of this sort of comment.  Sure, I’ve had pommy jokes told in my presence, but I have never been scorned or ostracised for being British.  I don’t have a history of racial abuse that has left me scarred and vulnerable.  The same goes for my Irish wife who tells lots of hilarious Irish jokes.

Empathy Considers Context

Another factor to consider is location.  For example, telling a joke about a Protestant and a Catholic may fly under the radar in Australia because we haven’t gone to war over this, but in Northern Ireland, it’s a different matter.  Empathy will consider location, as well as cultural and social factors, and be sensitive and caring towards those who are in other places and from different backgrounds.  Wisdom cultures (like Bible cultures and our own indigenous Australians) believe that every part of the land has its memory and history, which is why it is hurtful when we tell jokes or make light of what unfortunate events have taken place on their land.

Empathy will ask what it’s like to be in the shoes of another.  What’s it like to be a woman commuting home on her own after dark?  What’s it like to be a Muslim woman identified by wearing a hijab or burqa?  What’s it like to be same-sex attracted in a straight-dominated world?  What’s it like to have a skin colour other than white?

Let’s be slower to condemn people like Serena Williams and spend some time trying to see life through their eyes.


[1] www.dictionary.com

[2] https://www.bbc.com/sport/tennis/45468290

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/media/2009/feb/06/bbc-race-golliwog

[4] https://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/news-life/why-golliwogs-are-viewed-as-racist-in-australia/news-story/9b0d8f1aacb2d3004b0a85b6bb26ada6


It was just a couple of months ago when Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said: “Australians must guard against compassion towards refugees as it could undo the government’s hard-fought success in discouraging people smugglers.” [1]  I believe Mr Dutton’s statement reflects a faulty logic.  If the boats were going to start again because of compassion, they would have started when asylum seekers moved to the United States, or when kindness was finally shown to people who were in desperate need of medical help.  The boat turn back policy seems quite sufficient to stop those who are attempting to smuggle drugs, weapons and people.

I have never viewed compassion as something I need to guard myself against.  Compassion is required for the people held in Nauru, PNG, and other detention centres.  People sometimes ask how a holocaust could happen.  It’s quite simple – demonise a group of people making them “the problem” or somehow “less than human”.  From there it’s easy to treat them without compassion, in fact, we’d need to guard against compassion.  Such is the case for the asylum seekers held in Australian detention centres because we all know they are “boat people”, “economic refugees”, or “terrorists” who are trying to subvert our way of life.

What about children?

Right now, there are several children on Nauru who are severely or critically unwell.  Some of them are self-harming and suicidal.  Consider:

  • A 12-year-old girl who was taken to Nauru hospital after attempting to set herself on fire, an incident that was witnessed by other children. She has made multiple attempts recently to end her life.  Several adults have also set themselves on fire on Nauru, one fatally, and some children have attempted to kill themselves by that method. [2]
  • Or the 17-year-old girl who is being treated inside the regional processing centre after refusing all food, fluid and medical treatment. Three doctors have diagnosed her with a major depressive disorder and “resignation syndrome”.[3] A person who knows the girl said she had previously been one of the brightest and most articulate of the refugee children.  “Before she got sick, she was the best-performing student. She had a dream to be a doctor in Australia and to help others. Now, she is on food-and-fluid refusal and begging to die as death is better than Nauru.” [4]
  • Then there is the 12-year-old boy who had been refusing to eat for 20 days and was finally flown to Brisbane last Tuesday. The boy weighed 36kg and is unable to stand.  His mother and sister are being held in detention in Brisbane but are allowed to visit him.
  • There’s a 14-year-old boy with muscle wastage so severe he may never walk normally again.
  • And a two-year-old child whose parents are too unwell to care for him.

I read these stories and find it so hard to guard against compassion, but I’m trying hard Mr Dutton, I really am!  This week, Buzzfeed released the personal testimonies of one child and two young adult detainees on Nauru. I encourage you to listen to their stories and share them with others.[5]

What about families?

The descriptions of families being torn apart and devastated are heart-wrenching. For example, an air ambulance arrived on Nauru recently to take a gravely ill 15-year-old refugee boy to Taiwan.  After protests from his family (about being separated, possibly permanently) and concerns over his fitness to fly, the plane left without a patient.  International Health & Medical Services (IHMS) staff have made frequent requests for the boy to be moved to a place where higher-level care is available.  The Australian Border Force maintains the boy and his family have refused treatment, citing the plane being turned away at the cost of more than $100,000.  If you were in this family’s position, what would you do? I would feel devastated if one of my children were seriously ill and was being moved to a developing country without Christie and myself; a country where she wouldn’t know anyone and wouldn’t understand the language. But there I am getting all compassionate again.

What about the cost?

This year at least 14 legal challenges have been brought before the federal court seeking immediate orders that children be moved from Nauru to a place where higher-level care is available, almost invariably Australia.  The government has opposed each challenge, but each has been successful: every case has either been conceded by the government at the courthouse door or resulted in an order from the bench that children be moved immediately, a process that is costing hundreds of thousands of dollars all in the name of guarding against compassion.

These are just a few examples of the extreme suffering being experienced by the 117 children (and their families) still on Nauru, and all but a handful have already been recognised as legitimate refugees.  Our government should be very concerned about the upcoming Pacific Islands Forum beginning on September 1. “The Australian and Nauru governments are going to extraordinary efforts to cover up the abuse of refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru.  Demolishing the tents and providing new cars to drive around in, won’t hide the reality of the abuse that Nauru is now internationally identified with.” [6]

I hope the media representatives that get to Nauru to cover the Forum will also be allowed to report honestly on the devastating plight of asylum seekers.  May they NOT guard against compassion.

Please join Christie and me in advocating to get the Kids off Nauru.  Go to Kids Off Nauru to find out how you can make a difference, and use #kidsoffnauru in all social media posts.  Thank you for your compassion.


[1] https://www.sbs.com.au/news/compassion-can-undo-efforts-against-people-smugglers-dutton?cid=newsapp:socialshare:copylink

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/aug/23/nauru-self-harm-contagion-as-12-year-old-refugee-tries-to-set-herself-alight

[3] Children suffering resignation syndrome effectively withdraw from life – refusing to eat, drink, toilet, leave their beds, speak, or even open their eyes. They are sometimes completely unresponsive to stimuli. Resignation syndrome is a very serious state of withdrawal that traumatised children can go through when they are “overwhelmed by stress.”

[4] https://www.buzzfeed.com/lanesainty/australias-child-refugees-are-being-diagnosed-with-swedens?utm_term=.rf2qvVoW0#.oq4YNDa3p

[5] https://www.buzzfeed.com/lanesainty/young-refugees-nauru-mental-health-crisis?utm_source=dynamic&utm_campaign=bfsharetwitter&utm_term=.xdoa6xQjX#.jkB2kZ0vB

[6] https://www.sbs.com.au/news/mouldy-nauru-tents-replaced-ahead-of-pacific-islands-forum-in-cover-up-refugee-activists



Have you ever felt utterly overwhelmed by all the needs around you? I certainly have!  Whether they are needs in your family, church, this nation or other countries, it’s easy to be overcome by the seemingly endless ways that you can help others.  This is often compounded by a Christian worldview which encourages us to help those in need. So, who should we support?

Firstly, realise that you can’t help everyone, that you can’t meet every need – but that doesn’t mean you do nothing.  Jesus demonstrated this when he visited the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem. At this pool “a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralysed.”  [1] By the time John wrote his gospel, there were no disabled people left at the pool. The reason for that is not known, maybe Jesus eventually healed them all, or perhaps the use of the area was changed over time.  The Bible tells us that Jesus visited this pool once, attended to one man who’d been an invalid for 38 years, and left.  The inference in the story is that Jesus took pity on him because he had been unwell for so long.  But what about all the others?  Jesus could have met every need but, for whatever reason, he chose not to.  Maybe he was giving us a life lesson that we should not feel duty-bound to meet every demand we encounter.

“You can’t meet every need – but that doesn’t mean you do nothing!”  I’ve been gripped by this truth for many years.  It’s easy to see the massive problems and be immobilised by them.  You can’t help every homeless person in Australia, but what can you do?   You can’t help every orphan in Africa, but what can you do?  It was this line of thinking that caused us to start a Forever Home in Johannesburg (through Acres of Love [2]) over a decade ago.  There are an estimated 3.7 million orphans in South Africa. I’d love to help them all but I can’t, but that doesn’t mean I do nothing. We have led our church to support well over a dozen of these children. Some have been adopted into loving families, some have grown up and gained a good education and employment. Others are still in our home and doing so well.  We’ve been able to give them a future and a hope. We’ve made a difference to them.

Secondly, recognise you can do so much more when you work in a community with others.  This year, I participated in Sleep at the G with 25 others from Bayside Church.  Through one night of slight discomfort we were able to raise $33,660 for Melbourne City Mission’s work with homeless people.  I could have done it on my own, but it was so much better working with others. We had fun, we got to know each other better and came to a deeper understanding of some of the challenges faced by homeless people in our city.  The author of Hebrews was correct when he said, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” [3]

Next, have a clear understanding of what you are passionate about as well as the way God has gifted you.  If you don’t have a clear vision, you will spread yourself (and your resources) too thinly.  Over the years, we’ve had some people join Bayside Church from other churches and they BYO Missionary with them.  They then tried to get us to buy into their missionary and support them. I did this a couple of times, but it didn’t go well as it didn’t align with our vision.  As a younger leader, I felt obliged to help, probably because of an unsanctified desire to please people.  These days I’m not such a pushover.  I have a clear vision of who and when to help because “You can’t meet every need.”

I also prefer to help through people I know and trust.  Individuals I speak with, especially those outside the church, want to help others but they are not sure how to help or who to support, and they want to make sure the money they give gets to those they give it to.  So, it’s best to help others either through people you know or organisations you trust.  Last week we heard from a friend in Indonesia that her staff members in Lombok were all homeless because of the earthquake.  Right now, all of these people are living in her back garden because they have nowhere else to go.  She mentioned to us that she wanted to raise $5,000 to repair and rebuild their homes, and so we brought the need to our church community.  Last weekend, all of the gold coin donations at our coffee cart, plus the sale of Brownie’s (made by a church member) raised $3,060.20.  The money was sent to our friend today, and we know that these funds will be used 100% to help those it’s been given for.

Always connect wisdom to compassion. There are those who prey on kind-hearted people and make up stories to get money. We have a policy at Bayside Church never to hand out cash, and we only help those from the broader community who have been referred by a reputable social welfare organisation. You can’t meet every need, but do your best to make sure those you do help are genuine.  As Jesus said, “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” [4]

Finally, don’t forget to look after yourself; applying your own facemask before you help others with theirs.  Compassion fatigue is a real risk to those who are kind.  You can spend so much time and energy caring for others that you neglect yourself.  The apostle Paul put it this way, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”  [5] But taking an interest in others doesn’t mean you ignore your own interests. There’s a difference between selfishness and selflessness.  American humourist Sam Levenson said, “As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” It’s wise advice.


[1] John 5:4

[2] https://acresoflove.org

[3] Hebrews 10:24

[4] Matthew 10:16

[5] Philippians 2:4


I hate it when people are turned into political footballs, but that’s just what has happened with the massive number of refugees in the world due to conflicts and persecution in various nations.

According to the Salvation Army, there is an estimated 42.5 million people displaced by persecution and conflict in the world. This breaks down to 15.2 million refugees, 26.4 million internally displaced persons and 895,000 asylum seekers.

Australia, like many other western nations, has become polarised over this issue. This polarisation becomes very clear to me anytime I post on this topic on social media. That’s what I did last night. I simply put three quotes on my Facebook page and didn’t make any personal comment at all. The quotes were these:

“No Muslims should be allowed into this country until there’s a process in place to fully vet them. We’ve got to turn away those who could potentially pose a threat until this war with radical Islam is over” ~ Franklin Graham.

“I always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walk in and kill” ~ Jerry Falwell Jr.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” ~ Jesus Christ.

And off it went. One of the standouts from the comments was the number of people who agreed with Franklin Graham, but only one person agreed with Jesus. That’s it! And the vast majority of those commenting were Christians. I believe we need to consider two words when considering helping asylum seekers: compassion and caution – and we should always err on the side of compassion because that’s what God has done for everyone through His Son, Jesus – the One we celebrate at Christmas time.

Australia is a signatory to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. This convention defines a refugee as: “Any person who owing to a well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country.” If a person is found to be a refugee, Australia is obliged under international law to offer protection and support and to ensure that they are not sent back unwillingly to the country of origin.

Unfortunately the politicising of Asylum seekers has led to so many compassionless views, words and actions. We talk about “illegal immigrants” who are “boat people.” Asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat are not engaging in any illegal activity – and they are not immigrants. Asylum seekers do not break any Australian laws simply by arriving on boats or without authorisation. Refugees, unlike immigrants, are forced to leave their country and cannot return unless the situation that forced them to leave improves. Personally I’m glad the flow of boat arrivals has been stopped but for no other reason than it has prevented the horrendous number of people being drowned.

In addition to labeling precious people as “illegal immigrants” the compassionless also labeled them as “queue jumpers.” This term shows a total lack of awareness of the awful situations from which refugees flee. If you were fleeing persecution or war where would you go? Which queue would you join? Ponder those questions and allow compassion to put you in the shoes of those who find themselves having to leave homes, jobs and their communities in order to keep themselves and their families safe. Orderly resettlement of refugees is the exception rather than the rule: only a tiny minority (less than one per cent of the world’s refugees) is resettled and there is no orderly resettlement “queue” which refugees can join.

Australia has also lacked compassion in locking asylum seekers up in detention for years. This year we’ve had a number of asylum seekers join Bayside Church. Listening to their stories has been a real eye opener. Some were in detention for years on Christmas Island, others on Nauru, most were moved to several locations. Some have residency now, others are on Temporary Protection Visas. One young man is in risk of being returned to his country of origin in 2016 when his TPV expires. If this happens he will either be imprisoned or killed. We need more compassion!

But with compassion we also need to exercise caution. It is possible that evil organisations such as ISIS will try and infiltrate countries through the flood of refugees. Every country has a duty to also protect its own citizens and so, as we demonstrate compassion let us also exercise caution and have strong processes in place to make sure our country stays as safe as possible.

This Christmas can I encourage you to reach out compassionately to others? That’s what God has done for each person through His Son, Jesus. As we celebrate the birth of the Saviour may our actions and words also bring some peace on earth and goodwill to all people.

For many it’s a problem they’re aware of, but it’s so big – and they can’t do much – so they do nothing.  And so poverty is largely ignored.  We see the pictures on TV, but it’s so far away and such a big problem that we turn away and go back to what we were doing.
Others try and justify their inaction by asking questions like: How do we know these people are really poor?  Isn’t it largely their own fault?  If I give money how do I know it’s going to get to the people who really need it anyway?  So the ostrich sticks its head back in the sand and pretends the problem isn’t really that big and hopefully it’ll just go away.  But it won’t – not without our help!
Some Christians do little or nothing to help the poor because they have a poverty mindset.  I’ve met so many of these people over the years.  They talk so much about helping the poor, but they have such an issue with money that they’re not able to help much because they don’t have much.  They think that being poor is in some way being spiritual.
Of course if you push that thinking to its logical conclusion then the poorer you are the more spiritual you are, so you might as well sell everything you have and live under a tree.  Then you’d be really spiritual!  If poverty is spiritual why would you help the poor?  If you help them you’re actually making them less spiritual.
The Bible teaches that poverty is a curse.  Over 2,200 times in Scripture, God tells His people to help relieve poverty, but why would He do that if poverty were spiritual?  And, you only relieve poverty if you have something to give – i.e. wealth.
Two words sum up a right response to world poverty:  appreciation and generosity.  Rather than being judgmental of what we (and others) have we need to be full of appreciation to God and have a thankful heart.  I am so grateful that I live in Australia with all its blessing, prosperity and opportunity.  I am also grateful that I have something that I can give to those who have little or nothing.  I love to be generous and helping the poor and needy.
Sir Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”  In a prosperous country like Australia we have a responsibility to help those who are less fortunate than us.  It is not God’s will for people to suffer as much as they do.  He expects those of us who have to help those who have not.  And it doesn’t take a lot – it just takes everyone doing what they can.
It’s easy to say; “The problems too big;” or “Not everyone’s going to help.” But it’s got to start somewhere.  All God is asking us to do is to do what we can do.
In Luke 16 Lazarus was “longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table.”  That is what many in poor nations desire to do.  The rich man’s crime was that he didn’t even give Lazarus the food scraps.  Let us not be guilty of the same crime – let’s do our part in responding to poverty.