Nov 10, 2020 08:00am
Where Has All the Compassion Gone?

In God’s wisdom and power, he takes what is dead, brings it to life, and not only saves it but gives it the new purpose that He desires. This act of saving has a purpose far more significant than on the individual level. Yet, because of how our society and culture is programmed, we have an unfortunate tendency to only think in individualistic terms. 

What I’m saying is that when we’re raised to new life in Christ, it’s not just for our sake; it’s for the sake of others. It’s for the sake of God’s family and his kingdom. 

As westerners, we don’t think on the communal level like our eastern counterparts. But we must. If we don’t, we miss the higher level of God’s saving work in the world: to create not only a new you but a new humanity. This new humanity is God’s design that starts at the “new you” level. This “newness” implies new priorities, and one of the highest priorities that Jesus wants us to have, clearly, is a robust compassion toward those who need help. 

Religion is cheap but genuine compassion infers cost

The parable of the Good Samaritan records the story of two religious leaders who pass by a man who has been beaten and stripped, left to die. They pass by this man going from “Jerusalem to Jericho,” two densely religious settings in the Bible.

The Samaritan is on the same road, and when he sees the man, he stops, bandages his wounds, takes him to an inn, and even goes so far as to give the innkeeper extra money to look after him until he returns to check on him. After his return, the Samaritan says he’ll reimburse the innkeeper for any additional charges. What a costly endeavor the Samaritan engages in! 

Clearly, the Samaritan gave his time, money, and resources to the man who needed him. Jesus tells his listeners to “go and do likewise.” That is: Disadvantage yourself for other’s sake. 

Passion Conference 2011

Myself and thousands (like 60 thousand) of people were in Atlanta for  Passion Conference 2011. We were all walking together to gather inside the Georgia Dome. As we walked, I saw a homeless man sitting on a bench. His bench was close to the dome, so this meant that thousands of college students had to walk past him to get there. 

Something struck me at that moment. “Are we not going to help this man?” I said. “Here we are, going to a religious conference, thousands of us, and we’re all walking right by this man, ignoring him.” 

I wondered how he felt to be passed by thousands of religious people only to be ignored. I thought to myself, “Something is wrong with this. What’s the point of going to a religious activity if it doesn’t spur compassion toward others?” 

Religion can be self-centered, but God calls us to be others-centered.

Three Cases for Costly Compassion

James – 

James, Jesus’ little brother, tells a group of Christians, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widow in their distress.” The clear implication is that God denies or rejects religious activity that doesn’t lead to compassion. Caring for others authenticates our faith. 

Jesus – 

Jesus tells us in Matthew that, “whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” This reminds me of my encounter with the homeless man at Passion. We walked right by him, ignoring his needs. Jesus says in the negative, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me” (Matt 25:45).

Paul –

When Paul went up to Jerusalem to visit the three disciples of Jesus’ inner circle, Peter, James, and John, All they requested of him was that he continue to remember the poor. Paul told them it was, “the very thing I was eager to do.” Paul was eager to engage with the poor. 

The famous salvation passage in Ephesians 2 says that we’re saved by grace through faith, not of works. But immediately following that verse, Paul says, “[We] are created in Christ Jesus to do good works,” (Ephesians 2:10). The phrase “good works” in the Bible is almost always in the context of helping the poor. Paul says we are created in Christ to help others. 

Practical ways to embrace our joyful obligation of costly compassion

I say “joyful obligation” because, in one sense, it is very much our responsibility to bear one another’s burdens, but this subsequently creates joy in our hearts because of the nature of giving and receiving. 

A few ways to help: 

1. Call your local Chamber of Commerce and ask what organizations need volunteers. You’ll be shocked at the answers you get. Before you know it, you’ll have dozens of ways God wants to use you to be compassionate.

2. Children’s Cup is an organization that allows people to sponsor young children who live in impoverished countries. For $40/month, my family provides food, clothing, school supplies, and bible resources to a child in Honduras. This young girl is receiving the grace of God through us. 

Vitis here and start loving your neighbor:

3. Be eager to look for those in need. 

The mark of a mature disciple is compassion. When we are born again, we receive a new identity and new priorities. These priorities must fit within the broader context of God’s redemptive plan – not only to the individual but also to the new humanity under the authority of Jesus, who charges us to “go and do likewise” for our neighbor who needs love and compassion. 

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