Archive for February, 2016

Feb
13

Compassion in Action

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For years I had thought of compassion as a feeling or attitude toward someone who was in a difficult if not reversible situation. As I observed the person’s plight, I could easily be moved to feel something sympathetic. If you were to ask me if I thought I was a compassionate person, without hesitation I would have said, “Of course.”

As I have matured through the years I have learned that compassion is a word that calls us to act, not just feel. This is clearly exemplified in Jesus’ healing of the leper in Matthew 8:1-4.

Lepers in Jesus’ day were societal and spiritual outcasts. Because they were regarded as contagious, Levitical law required them to tear their clothes, cover their mouths, and declare themselves “unclean” to any non afflicted person who may be near. They were required to abandon family and friends and live in colonies outside of the community. Because they were ceremonially unclean they were forbidden to participate in worship or attend synagogue. The Bible doesn’t say how long this particular leper had been sick. One wonders how many birthday parties or little league baseball games he had missed.

In his desperation he approached Jesus for help. Jesus’ response chronicles what true compassion looks like. First, Jesus touched the untouchable. Verse 8:3 states that Jesus “reached out his hand and touched the man.” Who knows how long it had been since he had been touched by anyone? Then, Jesus worked to resolve the present problem by alleviating his suffering through healing his disease. One would think that would have been sufficient. But Jesus took one more step. He recaptured his future potential by restoring him to society and faith. He instructed the cleansed man to show himself to the priest in order to be declared clean.

I’m sure Jesus felt sympathy and care for the leper. More than that he behaved compassionately. In order for us to live compassionately we have to begin with Jesus’ example. We have to be willing to touch the untouchable, resolve the present problems by alleviating suffering, and help recapture their future potential. That is a workable strategy on any scale.

Categories : Compassion, Jesus
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