Stepping in, Stooping Down, Lifting Up
“You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.” Lk 6:36 NLT
My friend Steve and his wife were sitting at their kitchen table one day when their fifteen-month-old son, Isaac, toddled over. Steve noticed something under the baby’s tongue and was horrified to discover a jagged piece of glass they had missed when a large bowl shattered a few days earlier. Thankfully, Steve snatched it from the baby’s mouth before Isaac was injured. Steve reflected on the experience later:
“When something shatters, the broken pieces find their way into hidden cracks and crevices. Then they end up inside of us, causing pain, especially to the most vulnerable. It’s easy to walk by the fragments of brokenness. We’re busy and overwhelmed. And maybe that particular piece of jagged glass hasn’t hurt you. But it is hurting someone.”
Have you ever found yourself intentionally avoiding news media in any form because of the constant flood of bad news? Hurricanes batter one coast while wildfires decimate the other. Racial tensions boil over; political divides continue to deepen in the United States and around the world. Headlines feature salacious murder stories and death in all its permutations because journalists are taught to “let blood lead.” Sometimes it’s all just too much. We experience compassion fatigue, overwhelmed by the sheer volume of brokenness on a global scale. We walk on by. It’s not hurting us personally.
But it’s hurting someone.
Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan shows us another way: the way of compassion. A Jewish man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho was attacked by thieves who stripped him and left him for dead beside the road. A clergyman noticed the victim but chose to avoid him. An assistant in the Temple likewise passed him by. But a Samaritan, a member of a racial group despised by most Jews, felt compassion and ministered to the man’s wounds and paid for his future care.
Jesus’ point was clear. The one who demonstrated mercy was the one who saw need before nationality. The compassionate individual was the one who refused to step around a desperate situation but rather stepped right into it.
Scripture contains many examples of compassionate service to others. Pharaoh’s daughter took pity on a Hebrew baby who seemed to have been abandoned in the bulrushes and took him into the palace to raise as her own (Exodus 2:6). Certain leaders in Israel provided clothes and sandals, food, drink and healing balms to those taken captive in battle and returned them to their countrymen (2 Chronicles 28:15). The native people on an island where Paul and his companions were shipwrecked showed the men “unusual kindness” (Acts 28:2).
On his acclaimed show that ran on public television for decades, Fred Rodgers became famous for inviting his viewers to be his neighbors. Many of us want to view the world as our extended neighborhood. But when our days are already packed with commitments to our own families, employers, teachers, and others, where do we find the time to genuinely make a difference?
I have a habit of promising myself that when things slow down, I’ll get caught up. But they don’t, and I won’t. I’ll never have enough time to address all the needs that concern me. I don’t have the financial resources to contribute to every cause I’d like to support. There are so many, I’m tempted daily to avert my eyes, to toss the letters with the donation requests, to walk on by.
But like others before me, I’ve learned that compassion can help me make a difference to just a few. I can’t care for all the world’s children, but we were able to open our home to two teens who needed a family for five critical years. I can’t feed the world’s hungry, but I can pack meals for an international ministry in the evening after work, or make breakfast at a homeless shelter on Christmas, when young families need to be home with their children.
Is this enough? No, it will never be. But is it something to someone? Yes.
As the Lord has continually shown compassion to his children, he will empower us to do the same.
Instead of stepping around the next need we come across, we can intentionally step into it.
Taken from This Life We Share by Maggie Wallem Rowe. Copyright © 2020. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.