For the third part in this series about how Jesus changed the world, we’re talking about compassion. To begin with, let’s get a definition of the word. According to Dictionary.com, compassion is “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” Deep sympathy and sorrow for others in pain and a strong desire to fix the problem; I’d say that describes Jesus to a tee. Here’s a man who spent time with the poor and told them things would get better. He healed the sick, even spent time among lepers who were thought to be contagious (leprosy was used to describe several diseases back then and some were). He cast out demons (possibly people who were suffering from mental illness) and made it possible for them to return to society. He ate and spent time with sinners, tax collectors and other undesirables. When the Pharisees confronted him about it, he answered “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I didn’t come to call righteous people, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17). Let’s talk about that sinner part for a minute. In Jesus’ time, if bad things happened to you, it was because you sinned. Jewish society of the time was very cause and effect oriented. So, if you happened to be less than successful, it was your fault…, because you sinned. If you got sick, it was your fault…, because you sinned. If your financial situation was so dire, you became a prostitute or a tax collector, it was your fault…, because you sinned. These people flocked to Jesus because, unlike the Pharisees (supposed men of God), He felt sympathy for them and wanted to alleviate their suffering. Jesus was the greatest example of compassion ever seen in ways people had never seen before.
So, how are we followers of Christ doing in the compassion department? That depends on who we are called to show compassion towards. If it’s someone just like us; say white, middle to upper class and Christian, we’re doing great. If it’s someone not so much like us; say black or brown, anywhere below middle class and especially non-Christian, the score isn’t so great. We have record numbers living in poverty, collecting food stamps, on Medicaid and some just out-and-out homeless, a large number of them veterans. And, what are we doing about it? Instead of showing compassion and taking care of our less fortunate brothers and sisters, we argue about the “sanctity” of marriage and whether a woman has the right to choose what happens with her own body. We drive past someone panhandling on the street and ignore the piss out them, justifying your lack of compassion with some bullshit about panhandlers making tons of money. Or we rant about taxes and accuse the poor of driving them up by sucking on the government tit. How often do show you care about your fellow-man? Not talk about it, hear a sermon about it, but actually do something that shows compassion.
It’s not rocket science. If you don’t want to take the chance that the panhandler will buy alcohol or drugs, give them a bottle of water or a bite to eat. And, when you do, don’t look down your nose at them; treat them like an equal. If you don’t want poor people availing themselves of government assistance, work to make that assistance unneeded through education, job training, etc. If you don’t agree with abortion, adopt an unwanted baby instead of forcing the mother to carry it to term and then cut the safety net out from under them. In other words, quit worrying about things that don’t really concern you, like marriage and birth control and focus what you can do for others. These are the things compassion is made of. As Jesus said in Matthew 25:35-40:
35′ I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. 36 I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’
If you want to know what happens to those who aren’t so compassionate, click on the link above and read the rest of the passage. It ain’t good.