Monday, May 23, 2011

Magical Moment 473, "Where Has the Compassion Gone?"

I've been wanting to write about this subject for a long time now, but never felt the right words until recently. I try not to get on my soap box too much in my blog, but like today, I have a few exceptions:
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I was just wondering, where has the compassion gone? I don’t know if it’s because I’m simply noticing different things as I get older, or if it’s because I was raised in Nebraska, a land as different as night and day than New York City, or if it’s because the world really is losing its empathy for others. But I just can’t help but wonder, where has the compassion gone?

Since the world did not end as Harold Camping predicted, I have heard more ridiculing comments than I can count, “What a bunch of dumb-asses.” But here is a group of people that believed something so fervently that they literally bet their life on it. You rarely see faith like that in the world. One of the first things I thought at 6:01 pm on May 21st, 2011, was how badly their faith must be shaken right now. And I wonder if they’ll find their way to the truth.

Ironically, this group was very judgmental and harsh to others. Homosexuals for instance. And well, frankly I’m just so tired of seeing homosexuals be condemned, judged, and sentenced by other imperfect people, as if the only ones who have ever sinned in the world are gay people. (I commit some kind of sin every single day of my life. Sin is not ranked from best to worse in God’s eyes. That's something we make up to feel better about ourselves. But most "sin" is perfectly acceptable and legal to the world...and to Christians). Oh, and if you're gay you can't be a Christian. Is there anything more ridiculous than that? While we're on the subject, I think homosexuals should be allowed to serve in the military and should be allowed to get married. Yep, I do. The United States doesn't make things illegal because they make us uncomfortable or because we might think it's a sin. We make things illegal to protect our citizens from physical harm, or to keep its citizens from being taken advantage of.

Why must we all have judgments about other people’s personal choices, when so often our own choices are ghastly to the One who really matters? God. Some of the most stomach churning words I’ve ever heard include (and I have heard these personally):
“If a female in the military gets raped, she deserves it because women don’t belong there in the first place.”
“A man living a promiscuous homosexual lifestyle gets what’s coming to him if he dies of AIDS.”
“A married woman in the New Testament church without children is an abomination.” (This from a Baptist preacher.)
And countless disapproving remarks about interracial couples, homeless people, unwed mothers, or someone’s political or religious beliefs.

It’s difficult to write about this, because I myself know that I am guilty as much as anyone. We do it without realizing it. But I think it’s time for me to realize something else. Jesus had compassion. He didn’t point at Zacchaeus, the lying, cheating thief in a tree and say, “I publicly rebuke you for your sin!” Instead, he invited him to dinner.

He didn’t tell the woman at the well that she deserved to die of a miserable disease for her sexual sin. He had a conversation with her. 

Jesus hung, dying and bleeding on a cross next to a legitimate criminal, worthy of death. He did not say to the man, "Well, you got what's coming to you!" He forgave him and told him he would be received into Heaven.

A few days ago Eddie and I were in New York when a homeless woman approached us for money. We shrugged and said that we had no cash on us. About a block later, Eddie dug into his pocket and found a $20 bill.
“I’ll be right back.” He said.
He ran down the sidewalk to find the woman and as I stood on the street corner waiting for his return, I began to fume. That whole $20 he is just giving to that woman and who knows what she’ll do with it?! I was ready to let Eddie have it when he returned, but he just said softly,
“It’s ok. She cried when I handed it to her.”

Jesus would have given her more. He had compassion. Real compassion. Not feeling guilty, or obligated to others. But real, true love for strangers who didn’t deserve it. We are all undeserving, homeless, diseased people. Because we all sin. But God had compassion on us in a way that we can't fully understand. How easily we forget. We get on our high horse and look down on others who don’t need to be judged by us. They need our compassion. How else will they see God’s love for them, if not through the actions of His people?

God help us all if we “get what’s coming to us.” Oh wait. He did help us, and that’s why we won’t get what’s coming to us if we trust and believe in Him. And part of that acceptance is showing the same compassion to others, that He showed to us.

"You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
-Matthew 7:5