Philosophical Compassion

Compassion Puts Love in Action

One of the dangers to which spiritual leaders are particularly susceptible is that we would teach the truths of God’s Word while exempting ourselves from those very truths.

Take, for instance, the lawyer in Luke 10 who asked Christ how to inherit eternal life. Contrary to face value, this question was not a “What must I do to be saved?” kind of question. It was a trap.

A first century Jewish lawyer was a priest who interpreted the law. He knew the Old Testament inside and out. He was playing word games with the Lord.

But Jesus wasn’t easily trapped; He turned the question back to the lawyer and let him answer his own question. “What is written in the law? how readest thou?”

Through his own quoting of the law, the lawyer was convicted of his guilt. He knew he didn’t love his neighbor. Unwilling to own up to the guilt, he decided to justify himself with a new question: “And who is my neighbor?”

With those five words, the lawyer did what we so often do—philosophize compassion.

Obviously, he wasn’t asking who his neighbor was because he was overflowing with the desire to help and wondered on whom he could lavish his services. He wanted, rather, to abdicate himself of responsibility.

His question spoke volumes: “I can quote the law, and I can give you theologically sound answers. But when it comes to actually showing compassion on someone, I’d rather just talk about the nuances of the law than get involved.”

You know what came next—the story of the Good Samaritan. In this well-known story, Jesus got to the heart of compassion—action.

Although you and I would like to think of ourselves as being like the Good Samaritan, sometimes we’re actually more like the lawyer who prompted the story.

Sometimes we’re better at explaining theology than we are at loving people.

Sometimes we’re quicker to enter a debate than we are to minister to a heart.

Sometimes (although it’s unpopular to admit it) we really do allow our prejudices to color who we will serve.

Sometimes, in our rejection of the social gospel, we become unwilling to be relational with needy people.

In short, sometimes we philosophize compassion. We’re better at talking about it than we are at practicing it.

Our church is working this fall through the love works outreach to demonstrate the love of Christ all over our community. I’m thankful for the tremendous response of our church family to this opportunity to put action to our compassion as we share the gospel with the lost.

All around us there are people who need the love of God. When opportunity to show love presents itself, may we not become philosophical, but practical.

What can you do today to practice compassion?

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