Oct 28, 2014


by Dr. George D. Calhoun
Milton SDB Church
Milton, WI




Compassion means to suffer with another person. To have compassion means more than just feeling sorry for somebody. It means to get down where they are in the midst of their need and to suffer with them in the midst of their pain.



Le Bon Samaritain - The Good Samaritan



Biblical compassion means that you see the problem.
You are moved by the need. You go out to where the
problem is. You get your hands dirty trying to help,
and raise a person up to a higher level of life. It’s not
a handout, but a hand up!

This is what Jesus did: Matthew 14:14 tells us that Jesus had compassion on the great crowd following him so he healed the sick and then fed the 5,000. When Jesus saw the two blind men of Jericho, Matthew 20:34 tells us that he was filled with compassion and healed them on the spot. Mark 1:40-41 offers the most telling example of what compassion meant to our Lord Jesus: A leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” The most shocking part of that text is that Jesus touched a leper! In doing that, he broke all the customs and rules of that day. According to the Old Testament, if you had leprosy, you were unclean. Lepers had to live in a colony away from the rest of society. They carried a little bell and rang it so people would know they were in the area and could avoid them. However, when Jesus saw the man with leprosy, he didn’t run away, but reached out and touched him.

For our Lord Jesus Christ, compassion was not a feeling; it was a commitment to get involved with hurting people. Real compassion is more than a feeling. Real compassion moves from feeling to action.

In Luke 10:25-29, an expert in the law came to see our Lord with a curious question. He was a theologian, an Old Testament scholar. We’re told that he stood to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” This scholar, this theologian wasn’t asking this question because he didn’t know the answer. He wasn’t seeking clarity and insight into the Scriptures. He did this to prove how smart he was compared to this itinerant preacher from of all places, Nazareth. After all, as John 1:46 says, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”

But Jesus didn’t fall for this theologian’s trick. Instead, He answered him with a question: “What is written in the Law?” “How do you read it?” He (the theologian) answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Do you see the sparring going on here, the mental gymnastics? This scholar was trying to pull Jesus into his religious jargon web. He had pulled from what is known as the “Shema,” “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is One and we are to Love the Lord our God.” Every Jewish child could recite that from the time they could talk. For good measure, he added the edict in Leviticus 19:18 to love your neighbor as yourself . Every person there that day knew this and was listening intently to how Jesus would respond.

This theologian reminds me of many I’ve run across over the years. Their religion is something they love to debate in hallowed halls, but hate to live out in their daily lives. They have the right answers, but the right answers don’t have them.

Jesus was not here to debate what was obvious. He was here to restore what Satan had stolen. He was here to proclaim good news to the poor, to set the prisoners free, to recover sight for the blind, and to announce the Day of Jubilee when slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven, and the mercies of God would be made manifest.

But this theologian was so heavenly minded he didn’t know that the God he worshipped came into the worldto do earthly good. So he asked with a smugness that always seems to accompany those who practice religion without a genuine faith: “And who is my neighbor?” The question seems to answer itself before it leaves his lips. Just look around — your neighbors are all around you! They live on your street, you go to school with them, you shop at the same stores, eat at the same restaurants, you drive the same streets, you work with your neighbors, and you see them when you go to church. Your neighbors are all around you.

This man didn’t want to know the truth. He just wanted to prove that Jesus was wrong and he was right! But as always, Jesus took the opportunity to dispense the truth. So He told a story: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said, “and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.” Luke 10:30-35

What this Samaritan did was truly above and beyond normal human obligations. Today if we saw a beaten man lying by the road, we would first call 911 and then do what we could while we waited for help to arrive. But there were no EMTs on the treacherous road winding through the mountains from Jerusalem down to Jericho. If this man were to survive, the Samaritan would have to take the whole burden on himself. Either he got involved or the man died. There were no other options.

Many of us might have hesitated. After all, we’ve got things to do, places to go, people to see. I don’t know anyone who isn’t busy these days. The demands of life weigh heavily on all of us. After all, we can’t save the whole world. I know from the sheer volume of ministry over the years that we won’t be able to save everyone. We can’t rescue every baby. We can’t rescue every homeless man. We can’t save every marriage. We can’t change everyone’s destructive behaviors or make them forgive their past and start a new beginning. But we can light a candle in the darkness! We can stop and reach out to those God has laid before us. Why did the Samaritan get involved when the priest and the Levite passed by on the other side? I suppose one could argue that his background as an outcast made him more likely to respond to human need. Perhaps a person who has been forgiven much gives much grace. After all, aren’t we able to love because He first loved us? (1 John. 4:19)

We rarely know what compassion will demand of us. Sometimes the help we give will be brief and easy to do. Other times we will discover that the demands are long-lasting and heavy to bear. Most of the time we can’t do it all by ourselves. Even in this story, the Samaritan didn’t stick around and try to nurse the man back to health himself. He left him in the care of the innkeeper and then went on his way. No one can do it all. I can’t do it all and you can’t do it all. No one is being asked to do it all. But we can all do something! We can all contribute. We can all do our part in the plan that God has set before us. Because something done in Jesus’ name is better, much better, than nothing done at all!

Jesus asks this Biblical scholar a question that in
turn is asked of each of us: “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” Who was the true neighbor to the man in need? Was it the priest, the Levite or the Samaritan?

It’s not a trick question. It has the answer that any school child with their hands wildly waving in the air would readily shout out: “It’s the Samaritan!” The
expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” He couldn’t even bring himself to say Samaritan, (you know, those dirty, low-down half-breeds). So he forced out his answer, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Then I can imagine Jesus looking him in the eye with a sadness that always accompanies those who not only don’t see, but refuse to see. “Go. (He tells them) Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37)

The question this scholar asked was not the real question. The real question was what Jesus asked: “Will I be a neighbor to those I meet today?” The onus is always on me, not on those in need. Jesus’ story is not about the man in need, it’s about those who have a chance to help and don’t. It’s about a man who did what he could, even though he could have walked away. It’s about someone who stepped in to do something even though he couldn’t do everything. It’s about the people of God doing what Jesus did when He left His throne in glory to walk the paths of earth looking for those who would take hold of His outstretched hand. It’s about ministry that brings the light of Jesus into a very dark world, even if that light is but a candle in the wind!

Compassion is not something you talk about. Compassion is something you do. Compassion can be studied, but its surface isn’t scratched until its
put into practice.

My prayer is that our eyes will be open to see what
God sees, and that we will have the courage to do
what He’s asked us to do. And I pray that God will bring at least one person across your path that needs the help only you can give.

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