David Jeremiah - A Life of Compassion
Compassion is about the moment. It's about what I have in my hand, whether it's money or talent or encouragement or a shoulder to cry on, what I have in my hand that will help another person. Compassion is about those times in our lives when God intends for us to be the healer, the helper, and maybe even the hero. In all of human literature, there is no greater illustration of what it means to be compassionate than the story Jesus told about the Good Samaritan. The story of the Good Samaritan is only told in Luke's Gospel. In this parable, we meet individuals who are confronted with the responsibility to be compassionate. How they respond will help to inform us of our strengths and our weaknesses as compassionate people.
So, from this story, let me share with you some principles about compassion that are so illustrated. First of all, when we read this account, we discover immediately that compassion is not academic. Luke chapter 10 says it this way: "And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Jesus, saying, 'Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?' And Jesus said to him, 'What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?' And the lawyer answered and said, '"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind," and "your neighbor as yourself".' And Jesus said to him, 'You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.' And the man, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, 'And who is my neighbor?'"
Here's what I want you to know. First of all, compassion is not academic. You don't learn to be compassionate in a book, or even in the Bible. It's not something that happens up here. It's something that happens down here. Secondly, compassion is not academic, "And Jesus answered and said to him: 'A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead". Now, this story reports the kind of thing that happened often on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. The lawyer would have known how dangerous this road was. He would have been able to picture in his mind the bruised and wounded body of this traveler that Jesus introduced as he began to tell his story.
In the telling of the story, Jesus refused to allow the lawyer to deal with compassion in the abstract. Jesus will not allow us to be abstract about the identity Compassion is not academic, and it's not abstract. It's not something we do in general. It's something we do specifically. Then let me say to you, thirdly, that compassion is not afraid. In Luke 10:31, we read: "'Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw the man who had been beaten by the robbers, he passed by on the other side.'" There was no way he could be sure if the man was alive or dead. And he couldn't afford to find out. By the religious law of that time, if the man was dead and the priest touched him, the priest would have been ceremoniously unclean for 7 days.
So, the priest made a decision. He made a decision to put the afterglow of his temple experience above the claims of suffering humanity. Not only did he pass by the wounded man, he passed by on the other side of the road. That day, the priest decided to put the temple above a suffering man. Compassion's not academic. It's not something you study. It's not abstract, some feeling that you may have. And it's not afraid. When you really have compassion, you jump over the things that stand in your way to meet the need of the person who has come across your path. Here's number four, compassion is not analytical. It's easy to become paralyzed when we analyze. Do you know that? There is even an expression we use sometimes in the business world, and it's called, "The paralysis of analysis".
Sometimes we get so busy analyzing something, we forget what it is we're doing. And the Bible says in Luke chapter 10, in verse 32, that: "'After the priest went by, a Levite came by.'" Now, the Levitical people in the Bible were the worship leaders. They were the singes. And the Bible says, "When he arrived at the place, he came and he looked, and passed by on the other side". Both the priest and the Levite illustrate something you must not miss tonight. Religious work does not make the worker religious. You can be doin' all these things outwardly, but if your heart isn't right, it's meaningless, and it's foolish, and it's just sending a false message. So, that's what compassion isn't. It's not analytical. You don't analyze it and then not do anything. Compassion is action.
Now, let me read the rest of the story. "But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where this man was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and he bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, and gave them to the innkeeper, and said, to the innkeeper, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, The priest didn't help, the Levite didn't help, and a Samaritan helped"? Jesus said that "one of those who could have been neighbors to this man, the only one who was really a neighbor was a Samaritan".
Now, you may not get that if you haven't studied what a Samaritan was in the Jewish culture, but a Samaritan was the most untenable, intolerable thought that this lawyer could ever have entertained, a Samaritan. The Samaritans hated the Jews, and the Jews hated the Samaritans right back. Jesus chose that Samaritan in his story to strengthen the criticism of the priest and the Levite. The Good Samaritan, by what he did that day, made his nationality forever something that we talk about in a positive way. So, what did the Good Samaritan do? Here's where we learn how compassion works. First of all, we learn that compassion is about what you see. The priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan all looked at this broken man, but only one of them saw him. Only the Good Samaritan saw him. For Jesus, who is the ultimate Good Samaritan, compassion began with what he saw.
The word "compassion" is a word that means "a deep moving within your inward spirit. It is used of Jesus many times in the book of Matthew. Jesus was one who showed compassion over and over again. He was a man of compassion. When he saw something that wasn't right, like, little children that weren't being cared for, or fellow servants who weren't being fed, the Bible says, "He was filled with compassion". In his deepest hours of agony, never for a moment did Jesus break from showing compassion to other people. The more difficult his life became, the more people crowded around him with demands, and the closer he moved to a torturous death, the more loving, compassionate, and forgiving he became. Once again, don't forget, the least likely person in the whole narrative is the one who acts. But the reason he acted is because he saw this man.
Now, let me just bring this down to where all of us are today. How many of you know? I'm standing up here and if I need to raise up one hand because I'm guilty, I'll raise up both. How many of you know, we teach ourselves not to see the homeless people in our community? Do we not? We drive by them. And one of the reasons we do that is because we don't know what to do. We know we can't help all of them. We don't know how to respond, and so, we teach ourselves to look beyond them. We learn how to look straight ahead when they're standing over here, not to catch their eye. And I'm not saying that I stand any more righteous in that than you. I've done that, and we've all done it. But here's what I know. Until you see the misery of a person and really see it, you can't help them.
Compassion is what you see. But number two, compassion is what you do. Recently, a reporter asked me, "What is the difference between sympathy and compassion"? And what I told him is important. I said, "Sympathy is something that you feel, and compassion The Good Samaritan did more than observe the fallen traveler, as the others had done. Put yourself in this place. You see this guy all trashed, laying there in the ground, and you walk up and you say to yourself, "I'd like to help this guy, but whoever did this to him's probably still around. I'll wait till I get to Jericho, then I'll call 911". The Samaritan risked everything and he illustrates for us that genuine love always involves risk. Unlike the priest, the Samaritan touched the traveler with hands of kindness and compassion. No ceremonial reason would be great enough to restrain him. He bandaged his wounds. He bathed his sores and helped him on his way. This was compassion at work. When it comes to compassion, it's more than just a feeling. Compassion is something you do.
Number three, compassion is about how you do it. When Jesus asked the lawyer at the end of the story, "Which of the three men had demonstrated that he was a neighbor"? the lawyer said, "The one who showed mercy". It's hard to express how much this means to a person who's hurting. Compassion is what you see, it's what you do, and it's how you do it. But compassion is also about what it costs you. Cannot ever be compassionate without it costing you something. Sometimes compassion costs you time. Sometimes it costs you more. But true compassion doesn't weigh the cost first. It simply responds to human suffering with lovingkindness. Jesus finished telling this amazing story. He turned to the lawyer and he said to him, "So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves"?
It is interesting that the lawyer could not bring himself to say the word "Samaritan," so he answered the question like this: "He who showed mercy on him". And the Master said to the lawyer and to us, "Go and do likewise". Tonight, when we live in this world of incredible need, we are the body of Christ. And of all the people on the face of the earth, we ought to be the ones who show compassion. Maybe God has brought somebody to your mind even as I've been speaking, who you know is in need of compassion. And whatever it is you find yourself in the midst of here in this room tonight, I am here to announce that the Good Samaritan is the Lord Jesus, and he loves you with a love you can't comprehend, and his compassion for you is so immense.
I just want to tell you, he loves you so much, and he is not willing for you to continue on in your raged ways. He wants you to become a disciple of his. God in heaven loves you so much that he sent his only begotten Son into this world. And the Bible says, "He came and he walked among us, and he lived among us, and he was a perfect person". And as the perfect Son of God, one day, he hung upon a cross. And as the Lamb of God, he poured his life out so that we could be forgiven of our sin. You see, the Bible says that "the wages of sin is death". When we sin, the penalty for our sin is ultimately death. And that penalty has to be paid, and Jesus Christ paid it. As the infinite Son of God, he came to this world, and in his holy righteous self, hung between two thieves with both hands stretched out, as if to say, "Come, come to me, all you who are lost. Feel the compassion of my heart towards you.