There is a popular Christian song that I sing often in church that has the verse “Everyone needs compassion, a love that’s never failing, let mercy fall on me.” As a pastor in Hampton Roads for twenty years, I have found that literally everybody, at one time or another will need some compassion, love and mercy.
Jesus told a parable about three men who encountered another man on a busy street that had been mugged and left for dead. Two very religious people came upon the scene first and did nothing but pass by on the other side. A third man, who was from out of town, resisted the temptation to discreetly pass by but rather stopped and gave generously of his time and money to help the injured man get the medical help he needed.
Jesus concludes this famous parable by saying a good neighbor is one who does not pass by when someone is in need – regardless of their ethnicity, class or religion – but instead stops and gets involved.
I know that in our neighborhoods, schools, and places of work there are countless people who are hurting, lonely, and broken – people who desperately need someone to stop and lend a hand. And yet, I am ashamed to say that I too often do nothing or too little to help my neighbor.
Why do we too often pass by on the other side?
1. We don’t see the needs around us. Our lives can settle into predictable routines where we honestly can’t differentiate the human suffering around us – we have unfortunately become emotionally desensitized to it.
Do you really see the fatherless children across the street? Do you see the widow who spends her holidays alone? Do you see your own family members who are begging for your attention?
Jesus said, “Lift up your eyes, the fields are white unto harvest.”
2. We feel inadequate to help. We can often rationalize away our feelings of compassion and even our sense of duty to assist our neighbor when we feel ill-prepared to give assistance. We can then make excuses like, “I’m too old, I’m not part of their culture or I’m not comfortable in this situation.”
Don’t talk yourself out of acting on your compassion! Just start somewhere today sharing what you have with your fellowman and something good will happen…in them and in you!
3. We don’t have the time. I heard someone say that busyness can actually be a form of pride. Ouch. We can have over-full lives where we begin to feel that we’re so important and so much depends on us that we don’t have time for anything that’s not productive.
I don’t know anyone who isn’t busy. If we wait for life to slow down, we will all be waiting a long, long time! Prioritize your life a bit more and make yourself available a couple of hours a week to help the less fortunate. A little time can go a long way
4. We have grown cynical. Space does not permit me to tell you how many times I have been burned by some kind of ‘help the poor’ scam. Each time it happens, I am tempted to pull back from loving others because I feel used. Even as a pastor, I can grow cynical, if I process disappointment without remembering God’s great grace for me.
Helping people is never without risk. We may lose some time in a bad human investment or a few dollars in a bad financial gift, but we can’t afford to stop loving.
Jesus teaches us that our neighbor is anyone we come in contact with that is in need. Let us as a community not ‘pass by on the other side’ but stop and be a Good Samaritan to the homeless guy in the park, the kid across the street who can’t read and the veteran who can’t find a job.
One intentional act of compassion can start a transformation of a whole community!
Dan Backens is Senior Pastor of New Life Providence Church. For more information see: http://newlifeprovidencechurch.com/