Driving around Kansas City, we passed by what appeared to be some sort of bar. I don't remember the name of it, but I do remember what it said in hug red letters outside of the building. "We have sympathetic bartenders."
As I thought about this sign, I thought about the image that this establishment wanted to portray. They wanted to communicate that this was a place the lonely, the scared, the depressed, and perhaps even the angry could come and find someone to listen to their problems. I also thought of what the bartenders offer. It would be okay if it were merely a listening ear and a compassionate touch. But the bartenders offer a way to become numb. It is tempting for someone to numb themselves to the problems in their lives through alcohol or some other kind of drug. The problem is that this is not a solution. If anything, it makes the problem worse. It can numb a person to the wounds in their life that needs tending to.
Then I thought of Jesus. I thought of Jesus and his invitation when he said,
"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matt 11:28-30)."
Yet Jesus was not simply offering a shot of this or that to numb the senses. He was offering the best drink of all. He offered living water to those who would believe in him (John 7:38). Neither was Jesus simply offering a sympathetic ear. He came in order for us to have life in abundance (John 10:10). He gave his own life so that we could have life.
Before Jesus left this earth, he said,
"as the Father sent me, I also send you (John 20:21)."
What does that mean? It means we are to do as Jesus did. He laid down his life for others. We are to do the same thing. The answer to problems is not to drown away guilt and sorrows in a bottle. The answer is to wash them away. Nothing cleanses us like the blood of Christ. Nothing renews us like living water. When we are baptized, we are being renewed inside and out. We are comforted, strengthened, and made able to do as Christ did.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Cor 1:3-4)."
God calls us to a ministry of compassion. We don't need a big sign on our building that says, "We have sympathetic people." Our actions should speak for themselves. God has given us peace. In return he wants us to bring that peace to those around us.