Of all the parables that are given to us in the Bible, I have always loved the parable of the good Samaritan. Perhaps I might even acknowledge it as my favorite and I can’t help but wonder if there are others who would agree with me. We are drawn to this story because it is so profound although it might not seem so at first glance. It is a simple story that relates to us the complex nature of sacrificial, selfless love. In our lives and throughout history this parable is the trademark, the very definition of compassion.
The act of compassion on the part of the Samaritan is so foreign to our natures although we don’t like to admit it. We can relate to the man who was attacked. He fell among thieves and we can’t help but think that this has happened to us as well. We also have fallen on hard times at the hands of others who were supposed to treat us fairly. They stripped us of all that we had, hurt us, maybe even physically and left us where they found us not caring whether we lived or died.
Such it is in the world, in a vast earth where so many walk not knowing true love because they don’t know the Father from whom this loves flows. But I am not surprised to find such mentality in the world and neither, I believe, are you. Their news of murder, rape, and abuse is a violent noise that troubles our ears. But it is not a surprising noise that catches us unaware. It is a constant sound that we listen to all the day. We see it in the newspapers, on the Internet, and in every form of media. The violence of this earth is as common as the element of air and it seems that so many breathe it in more consistently than the oxygen that keeps them alive.
But is it not so that the actions of the priest and the Levite are not as foreign to us as they should be? These two men go out of their way to avoid helping the man who had been attacked. And so it can be, too often, within the church. We do not simply see around people that we feel uncomfortable helping. We go out of our way to avoid them. Perhaps they are different, but I have yet to meet an individual who isn’t strange or different in their own way. Perhaps they have some quality that is displeasing or annoying, but do we think so highly of ourselves that we cannot see that we may contain the same? Left on our own, in our original state of sin, we are a foul stench in the nostrils of God. We are as waste that has deteriorated in the noon time heat. On our own we are undesirable, with no redeeming qualities, hardly worth the air we breathe. Sad to hear? But it’s so true! The only good about us is nothing that we did ourselves; rather it is the gift of God. So how can it logically follow, that we who, outside of the salvation of Christ, are a rather disdainful group of people should come to value ourselves so much?
To find such a lack of compassion within can give us grief and cause a certain kind of ache in our hearts. The one place where we should feel the very safest can sometimes be the one place where we are not. This happens too often, a mark of our depraved natures yet we know that there is no excuse. How can it be, that we have been given grace so freely, find it impossible, if not improbable, to give grace to the ones that we live in fellowship with?
We are never as compassionate as we should be. Our sinful natures hinder that. But it isn’t enough to hide behind the excuses or to get comfortable with our feelings to the extent that we ignore how God wants us to truly act towards one another. Our lack of compassion towards each other must always grieve us to the soul. No one is exempt from this. We have all fallen short. Perhaps we think, oh, when I am heaven then I will do right to that individual, then I will be kind and considerate to them. But that is not what God requires of us. He does not demand that we start to be holy when we get to heaven. He commands us to be holy now, just us he has commanded us from all eternity.
Compassion is an obsessive desire to put aside your needs and think of the neighbor first. Do you not like word obsessive? But that is how it must be. There is no other way to explain it. You must be consistent in compassion. It is an emotion that you must always keep on your mind because it is the hardest one to control. Satan told Eve to think of herself first and he has been telling us to do the same ever since. Compassion is so difficult because it is not natural. Yet when we succumb in this way to the devil we are robbed of moments that otherwise could have shined so brightly as an example of Christ.
There is only one way to give: completely, as Christ did. Compassion can not be done half heartedly. You must give completely of yourself, till you have nothing left, till your strength is spent. And then, when you are done, give some more. But even then all the giving that you do would hardly compare to everything that God has given you. So then keep giving. Give everything you have and lay it at your neighbor’s feet. Christ gave his life willingly and He did not begrudge the sacrifice nor look disdainfully upon us though we caused Him so much grief. Instead He was moved to compassion and looked on us in love. So then take up the cross and give your love, your possessions, your life if you must.
Give up your opinions too. We are rational beings who have been given the ability to think and therefore it is only natural that we should have opinions. Now opinions that are founded in a correct understanding of the word of God are not opinions but rather a correct understanding of the word of God. Therefore I’m not talking about those opinions. And surely if we have an observation or an interpretation that others may not have, there is no wrong in speaking these things. Yet sometimes we take our opinions too far and we begin to treat them like cherished children, pet favorites that we simply cannot let go of. We begin to covet them and view them as worthy of being noticed regardless of what effect they may have on those around us. Perhaps so and so has sinned and even though they have repented we still do not think it is enough and in our opinion they should do further penance for what they have done. Therefore we will ostracize them. In this example an opinion took on the heretical teaching of Rome that we certainly do not hold to. It became a man centered doctrine like so many of our opinions can become if we do not rein them in.
I find that I tire very easily of my own opinions. If they are not founded on the word of God, I must admit that I am not very impressed with them at all. We hear so often the phrase “your opinion is valuable too.” I can’t help but shrug my shoulders at this statement. I’m not very impressed with it from a Christian’s point of view. I have seen my opinions do many things, mostly fail and prove to be a later embarrassment to myself. Perhaps they are valuable and worthy of being heard, who can say? I cannot presume too much on this matter. I can only value my opinion as it is founded on the word of God. My opinions will die with me, they contain no earthly value. They are nothing but petty differences that weigh me down as if I carried heavy stones in my pockets.
We may hold onto our opinions but only if we are ready and willing to let them go in a moment’s notice. If your opinion should come between you and a brother and cause that brother to despair, don’t hang on to it and let it grow in between you like some grotesque weed. You then must think nothing of it, but let that opinion go. We are not, after all, members of a church that is founded on what we think is right and best. We are members of the body of Christ and He demands that we live in unity and love that is founded in the truth of His word.
Young people too must live a life of compassion which is especially hard because it can be such a self absorbed age. If you are mean to another person at school or anywhere in your life, you will only regret your actions later. The memory of your cruelty will be an embarrassment to your soul and become a thorn in you flesh. Yes, God wipes your slate clean, but Satan will not let you easily forget.
When children are cruel to one another the world says “kids will be kids.” A dangerous response to be sure, yet at times is our response any better? People say, “well, what did you expect, they are totally depraved.” Yes, that explains why they sinned but it does not define our response to the situation. Is that our attitude towards God when we come to Him in prayer to confess what we have done? Do we think that God goes easy on us because we are hindered by natures that are prone to sin?
When we down play the sins of our children and young people we do an inconceivable amount of damage to their spiritual life and show them a severely lacking amount of compassion. We must hold them accountable, not only for the sake of the child who is being teased but for the sake of the child who is doing the teasing. Rather they face our wrath and displeasure now for a short duration than face the wrath and displeasure of God for all eternity. Unsure of what to do? Then follow the example of Christ. He looked on us in our state of misery and had compassion on us. Rather than leaving us there to wallow and drown in our sin, He caused us to repent and made us new.
Consider this. If we should be walking in the way and I see you walk right by the man who had been robbed and I say nothing, who showed a greater lack of compassion? You or me? Was it you who missed an opportunity to show the mercies of Christ to another? Or was it me who let you walk away from that opportunity, deeper into the displeasure of God?
The sacrifice and death of God’s son was a moment that forever altered our world. It translated our lives from despair to redemption and became a bridge that would close the gap that separated us from God. It even closed the gap between us as well. Not sure of what to say to another member of the church? Then speak of the cross for it is worthy of being mentioned and it will not fail you for words. Mention his sacrifice without fear for you will not be at a loss of what to say. Speak to each other about salvation for this conversation starter is the outline of all eternity.
The cross of Christ will keep us in place when we visit the hospital, nursing home, funeral home and we feel awkward and don’t know what to do. It helps us at times when we are with people who seem to be polar opposites from us, especially with the elderly of our denomination. We wonder what we have in common with them. Our lives seem so different. But speak to them of the cross for it is language that they know and at times they speak it better and more fairly than any other person in our lives. They know the translation of heavenly matters so well because that is all they see. It is set before their eyes as a prize of a race well run. Indeed, the elderly in our churches are more proficient in a language and dialect that we are only gradually beginning to understand. So speak to them of these things and learn.
Why do we hesitate to show such compassion to one another? What more is there to do than living, bathing, glorying in the love of Christ? What else can we do but let go of the chains and malice that hold us down. Look at the brother or sister whom you have told to sit at your foot stool and see them as Christ sees them. Say that you would give your life for them. Impossible you say? Satan thinks the same thing. Impossible for Christ to love you! You have done great evil to him and worse! Yet Satan lies. There is nothing impossible in Christ. You do not deserve His love yet it is yours and He will never forsake you.
So don’t forsake the brother in Christ. In his saddest moment, when he is at his lowest, do not fail him. Let go of your inhibitions for they are the product of your old man and they will only paralyze you. So then let go. A thousand times if you must and you will have to because we are earthy and therefore always learning and starting over again. Let go and live and learn that the grace of God is sufficient to cause you to walk in the spirit of compassion. Ask this of God always, wrestle with Him if you must, but do not let go of Him till he blesses you in this way. Ask it in faith, never waver, and ask boldly. He will give this to you because He is your Father and He loves you for Christ’ sake. He would never give stones for bread.
Between you and me there are so many kind words not spoken, so many acts of compassion left undone. We could almost despair at the distance that is between us. It seems to be an abyss so wide that we cannot even begin to measure the length or the depth of it. Between you and me there is too much. So it only seems logical that we go our separate ways.
So we walk away from each other and we travel deeper into our own lives. We become consumed with the things that have to do with ourselves and we give very little time to think of one another. Yet God is compassionate. His mercies fail not. He brings us to our knees, whether it is at the rising of the sun or in the shadows of the moon. He brings us low. He causes us to journey a different way, a way less selfish, a way less ungodly. And we keep walking till He brings us to the cross. There is our greatest moment of grace, when we see the cross and we can not look away nor do we ever want to. It captures our attention and the power of it cuts through our souls so that we can breath, feel, and live as we never had before. And we know, because God causes us to know, that this is the sum of everything, this is the true center of the universe.
Yet God does not leave us there as if just the mere discovery were enough. He forms us to be tools that might serve and praise Him. And He does this in many ways. He does it by opening our eyes. And then we see as we had never seen before.
There are so many others here too at the foot of the cross. We are not the only ones. So many weak, wounded, and weary. So many who are here because they must either be healed by the cross or they will die. Many are faces that are not familiar to us. Yet many are faces that we recognize. We find those we never thought we would have to think twice about ever again. We find those who we didn’t think were good enough for our company, those that we secretly scorned. We even find those who, in our pride and contempt, we banished from our hearts. So many people we have wronged, how could we not be discouraged?
But here, at the foot of the cross, there is nothing that separates or divides us. When we meet here we know that the abyss was only our imaginations and fears. Truly Christ has showed us that we are one in Him. We realize then that between you and me there is nothing because we are engrafted into Christ and are no longer you and me but His.