What happened to compassion among conservative Christians? When did we stop thinking of how valuable it is to be healing agents, wound wrappers like the good Samaritan? When did we opt for placing more emphasis on being proclaimers and defenders and less on becoming repairers and restorers?
Maybe when we realized that one is much easier than the other. It’s also faster, swift as the flash of a sword. When you don’t concern yourself with being your brother’s keeper, you don’t have to get dirty any more or take risks or lose your objectivity or run up against the thorny side of an issue that lacks easy answers.
Let’s go back to that repairer-restorer comment I just made. It’s not an original idea. The prophet Isaiah mentioned it first, way back when. The nation to whom he wrote was going through the empty motions of a hollow religion. All the right words, all the right appearances, but zero results. They even fasted and prayed. Still nothing. I suppose we could say they looked and sounded orthodox, but missed God’s favor. They observed the external Sabbath, but lacked the internal Shalom. Why? Don’t hurry through the answer (Isaiah 58). It’s worth reading aloud, perhaps more than once.
“Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?
Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then your light will break out like the dawn,
And your recovery will speedily spring forth;
And your righteousness will go before you;
The glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am’
If you remove the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness,
And if you give yourself to the hungry
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.
And the LORD will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.”
And what will happen when we traffic in such compassion? The New International Version says, “‘then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.’ The mouth of the LORD has spoken” (v. 14).
Yes, He has spoken, but have we heard? The fact is that He has been talking like this ever since He asked Cain about the welfare of his brother Abel. When did we stop listening? How long will it be before we realize that others won’t care how much we know until they know how much we care? If you really want to “ride on the heights” and to “feast on [your] inheritance,” prefer compassion to information. We need both, but in the right order.
Come on, let’s break the mold and surprise ’em. Let’s allow compassion to create a hunger for the truth. We’ll be in good company. That’s exactly what Jesus did with you and me and a whole bunch of other sinners who deserved and expected condemnation, but got compassion instead.