December 2, 2008

True Compassion

"We are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside....but one day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that a system that produces beggars needs to be repaved. We are called to be the Good Samaritan, but after you lift so many people out of the ditch you start to ask, maybe the whole road to Jericho needs to be repaved."
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in a sermon at Riverside Church entitled "A Time to Break the Silence"

We need to do more. And by we I mean the church. And by the church I mean you and I. We have come to a place where we fling coins to beggars, but do not venture to sit on the side of the road with them to ask what it is they really need. Why will we not go further? Why won't we do more? Are we afraid? Do we not trust Jesus? Are we too concerned with saving money for our retirement that people right now have to suffer? When do we come to a point that flinging coins is not enough? When are we going to love people like they are our brothers and sisters instead of loving them like we just want one more person to hear our 5 steps to salvation?

In his book "The Irresistible Revolution," Shane Claiborne discusses Matthew 25: 31-45:
When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be assembled before him, and he will separate people one from another like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to dringk? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or naked and clothe you? WHen did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the king will answer them, 'I tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me'
Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels! For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink. I was a strager and you did not recieve me as a guest, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me. Then they too will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not give you whatever you needed?' Then he will answer them, 'I tell you the truth, just as you did not do it for one of the least of these, you did not do it for me.' And these will depart into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Jesus sounds pretty serious about this whole serving the poor and disadvantaged thing. But it seems like the first thing that we toss out. Because it makes us uncomfortable? I don't know. But it doesn't sound much like God calls us to a life of comfort.

Rich Mullins delivered a sermon at Wheaton College and said, "Your guys are all into that born again thing, which is great. We do need to be born again, since Jesus said that to a guy named Nicodemus. But if you tell me I have to be born again to enter the kingdom of God, I can tell you that you have to sell everything you have and give it to the poor, becasue Jesus said that to one guy too.....But I guess that's why God invented highlighters, so we can gighlight the parts we like, and ignore the rest."

This is so convicting for me. I don't want an easy Christianity - Jesus didn't serve an easy term on this earth.
Let's think bigger than making a donation. What can we do to TRULY serve our savior and his brothers and sisters? Any ideas?


  1. Thanks for posting this Maggie. This is something that God has really been challenging me on. I feel like all my life I have had this very comfortable Christianity--not that I haven't loved people who are different me, but that I haven't had true compassion on those who need it most.

    I've been asking myself a lot of questions about this. What does it look like to live in America and live the way Jesus called us to live? I honestly don't believe that the Shane Claiborne extreme is for everyone. I don't believe it is wrong to buy a home, for example. But I do think that I have to ask myself how I am using my home for the kingdom. And I think we have to ask ourselves: are we are hoarding what God has given us? Does this thing, whatever it is, make it more likely or less likely for me to serve Jesus?

    We just started going through a video series based on Dan Kimball's "They like Jesus but not the church," in Junior High and High School Sunday School, and it is really challenging me (and our students) to build relationships with people who are hurting and people who don't know Jesus. The premise is that after a while, we have a hard time getting out of our church bubble to build relationships with people who need Jesus. I think that this is really the core. I think that you are right to say that it is more than just making a donation. There's a place for that. But loving people is more than just providing for their physical needs. It's about loving them in such a way that they see a little more of God's love. And hopefully the gospel will meet their most important need, which is for God. If we never build relationships and never help those in need, they don't see Jesus.

    Sorry this is super long. But it has been very much on my heart lately.

  2. I agree with the overall point -- comfort is not a worthy goal -- but I do not agree with Rich Mullins' quote. Being "born again" is God's work in salvation and cannot be done by us. Giving all we have to the poor is our work and cannot earn our salvation. Stating equivalence because both examples appear once is misleading at best.

    But I still love his music...

    ...insert "Screen Door on a Submarine" lyrics here...

  3. Uh...Jill informs me that my comment perhaps wasn't the most winsome. I apologize, Maggie. I did not want to throw cold water on your post, because I agree with your sentiments. We are in the process of figuring these things out as well, and are glad to do it alongside you and Brian.

    Please forgive me.


Thanks for commenting!!


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