Recently I read somewhere (I can’t find the link) that it was found in some study that those who are religious act out with less compassion in a given situation of meeting someone’s need, than those who have no religion. Those with no (or perhaps little) religion when they meet someone’s need, or even see someone in need have more compassion, and act more out of compassion than those who are religious.
Yesterday I shared about the importance of having a sense of calling in doing what we do. And my guess is that many who are religious act to help others in need out of that sense of being called by God to do so. Whereas, for others, when they see need or act in response to it, they are not motivated by any sense of prescribed duty, but from the heart responding to someone’s plight and need.
I couldn’t help but think of Jesus’ story/parable of “the good Samaritan.” In that story a man was waylayed on the road by robbers, himself beaten and in need of care. A priest and a Levite saw him on the ground, but passed by on the other side. Their religion actually didn’t make it convenient at least, for them to help the man. They would be ceremonially defiled, though I believe there is provision in the Torah for them to help someone in need like that. Even though it indeed would have interfered with their religious duties.
Along comes a Samaritan. Remember that Jesus told the Samaritan woman that Samaritans don’t know who they worship, and that salvation is of the Jews. Their religion was bogus, not really in line with God’s revelation given to the Jews. So this Samaritan comes along, and unlike the religious Jews, who actually do have the true religion or faith- this Samaritan stops and helps the wounded man, indeed likely saves his life. And makes sure that his needs are taken care of. This Samaritan unlike the priest and Levite, was “moved with compassion” (CEB) and acted on that.
We in Jesus ought to be the most compassionate people in the world. Certainly we act out of calling apart oftentimes from how we feel. However the very point Jesus makes in the parable is that unlike the priest and the Levite, this Samaritan was a neighbor to the one in need. And that the religious man who asked who his neighbor was, wanting to justify himself, was told by Jesus to be a neighbor to those in need. In other words, to not be a stranger, but one who was near, indeed alongside when need be.
This is not to say that others apart from Jesus cannot show great compassion to those in need. That is part of our humanity as image bearers of God. It is only to say that when our full humanity is beginning to be restored in Jesus, we ought all the more to be compassionate and show that compassion. Indeed all we do is to be done in and out of love. As James informs us:
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Are we moved with compassion over the plight of others, no matter what we might know or not know about them? Are we like Jesus, taking pity on them, indeed loving our neighbor as we love ourselves? Love is to come from the heart, and also from the hands, in other words in good deeds which meet the needs of others.
Compassion. Am I moved by that? And how much? Why am I so moved? Good questions to ponder and think on as we in Jesus seek to live out his saving love to a broken and wounded world, beginning with the people in our path who are in need.