The nursery rhyme “Humpty-Dumpty” is very familiar to us. A person named Humpty experiences a major upheaval in his life. The plunge into of this upheaval is of such magnitude that his community is thrown into a state of emergency. The political powers send all the available resources at their disposal, only to find that Humpty’s fall is so devastating that he cannot recover even with the aid of the state’s resources.
Poor Mr. Dumpty. Poor Mr. Dumpty’s family (if he is a family man). Poor Mr. Dumpty’s government. Poor Mr. Dumpty’s community—one of its people had better hope if only he had a minor fall or less in life, for those with major falls will never obtain the aid necessary to recover!
Looking at the African American community through the lens of this nursery rhyme, one might see many Humpty’s interspersed between the pockets of economic and educational success. Alarming statistics on abortions, single-parented households, standardized testing scores, illegal drug use and drug trafficking, murder rates, and family break-ups, as well as the growing acceptance of homosexuality among our people reveal a people who seem to be irrevocably fallen. Many federal, state, and local programs have been established to alleviate these and several other social ills, along with many private-sector and nonprofit endeavors. But the problems remain incessant and perennial. One might ask if there is a solution to our plight.
Our Lord Jesus lived in a world equally as troubled as our contemporary communities:
“Jesus continued going around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing everydisease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:35-36).
As Jesus served the people in His society, He saw people with tattered and overwhelming circumstances. Rather than concluding that more help from Rome was the answer, He saw them as vulnerable sheep in need of compassionate, shepherd-like care. His response to them is informative for His modern disciples as we seek to restore wholeness to our own communities.
First, Jesus taught the people.
He educated the people about God’s standards for righteous living according to the Law and the Prophets because He recognized that broken living is symptomatic of sin. For example, when a municipality’s child protective services remove a child from a home due to abuse, the parents have failed because they have not raised the child in the instruction of the Lord while also not exasperating the child (Eph. 6:1-4). Had the parents followed God’s moral law for parenting and child rearing, they would have provided a home in which a child could flourish in joy and safety. Instead, neglect of adherence to God’s Word led to the great fall of the family. Many families in our community need solid, repetitive, clear teaching of what the Lord has to say about rearing a family so that they will stand again as whole, joy-filled families.
Second, Jesus preached the gospel.
The good news of the kingdom that Jesus preached is that He Himself, the very Son of God, offers righteousness and entrance to the kingdom of God. He saw that people who were heavy-laden by the consequences of their own sin needed the message of redemption. Teaching God’s moral law served to raise people’s awareness of their need for a divine solution to their situation. However, it is preaching the gospel that could serve to break the power of sin so that fallen people could rise from their desperate states.
All problems arise from sin in the world; we are awaiting the day “that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage to decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children” (Rom. 8:21). In the midst of this corruption, we must herald the news of Jesus’s substitutionary death for sinners and His triumph over the powers of evil through His resurrection. It should not seem impractical to offer Christ as the answer to a couple’s infighting. For example, both husband and wife need to forgive one another as Christ has forgiven them. They each stand in need of being clothed in the meekness of Christ, knowing of the love of Christ that flows from the resurrection power of Christ, and being filled with the Holy Spirit—Christ’s very presence in us through the third Person of the Trinity (John 16:14). Only then will they follow the example of Christ’s mysterious union with the church in sacrificial leadership and voluntary submission. Rather than going to divorce court where marriages cannot be put back together again, an application of the theology of the cross of Christ is needed to save such marriages.
Third, Jesus healed the people.
In the New Testament, healing is the ability to cure and restore people from sickness both instantaneously and completely. The Gospels and Acts are replete with examples of people of each gender, all ages, and multiple ethnicities being healed of many types of illnesses. Such miracles validated the message of the gospel from Jesus and the apostles, while also serving the real needs of the people.
Although we do not have the apostolic ability to heal with our shadows or through power that extends even through our garments (Acts 5:15; 19:12), believers’ acts of compassion can validate the Christian message and serve real human needs. When we see people akin to the leprous, demon-possessed, paralyzed, blind, deaf, diseased, afflicted, and the impoverished, we should be moved with compassion and into action just as Jesus was. Nineteenth century Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon’s insights on Matthew 9:36 are inspiring for such movement:
“I suppose that when our Saviour looked upon certain sights, those who watched Him closely perceived that His internal agitation was very great, His emotions were very deep, and then His face betrayed it, His eyes gushed like founts with tears, and you saw that His big heart was ready to burst with pity for the sorrow upon which His eyes were gazing. He was moved with compassion. His whole nature was agitated . . . for the sufferers before Him.”
When we gain the compassion of Christ toward those broken and fallen, more will be produced than common rhetoric that says, “I do not know what’s becoming of our world,” “this doesn’t make any sense,” “it’s not safe to go out anymore,” and “I’m glad somebody (else) is finally doing something.” Instead, an effort to live out the gospel as disciples will arise, producing acts that say, “Lord, use me as part of the solution!” In keeping with the examples above, we will offer hospitality to neighbors with chaotic households of failing marriages and abusive parenting. We will offer to listen to deep pains, provide from our own resources to alleviate financial burdens that have led to family stress, take children of the home out for a night to give both parents and children respites, all the while pointing these families back to the gracious work of Christ of the cross in order for them to have power to have peace and love in their homes.
The African American community has many Humpties, Bumpties, Lumpties, and Zumpties plagued by helplessness and hopelessness. But all of the King’s men and women can get them up again, if we ourselves teach, preach, and heal, so that we become the compassionate solution to our broken communities.
Rev. Eric C. Redmond is Senior Pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Temple Hills, MD, and author of Where Are All the Brothers? Straight Answers to Men’s Questions About Issues in the Church. He is the 2007-2008 Second Vice-President of the Southern Baptist Convention. He and his wife, Pamela, and their five children reside just outside of Washington, D.C.
* C. H. Spurgeon, “The Compassion of Jesus,” Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Sermon No. 3438, December 1914, http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/3438.htm.
This article was first printed in the fall 2008 issue of YOU.