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Posts tagged ‘compassion’

Being Good

Jesus said, “What do you think? Which one of these three was neighbor to the man who encountered thieves?”  Then the legal expert said, “The one who demonstrated mercy.”  Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”  Luke 10:36-37 (CEB)

This Sunday’s reading (July 10, 2016) is Luke 10:25-37 and contains the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Many of us have heard this parable for years, and I suspect it has been preached on, quoted, misquoted, used and abused for centuries.  There are so many thoughts in it, but perhaps the simplest approach is to take Jesus instruction at the end of the passage, “Go and do likewise.”

At the beginning, we find a legal expert – someone who knows Jewish law VERY well – standing up to test Jesus.  So often the religious leaders and interpreters of the Torah or the laws tried to find ways to trap Jesus into contradicting a teaching.  Yet, he was never trapped, but, in his usual way, he began asking them questions.  They quickly revealed their ignorance of the deeper meaning of the law.

Their laws, although inspired by God and many were for the good of the people, were still written and upheld by human beings, and Jesus point of reference was God.  His questions always referred to “what would God want in this situation?”  So often the laws were kept in unreasonable and might even ignore human needs.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus made the point that it was a lowly Samaritan who had shown mercy rather than a priest or a Levite.  Both of those two men by-passed the man, maybe because they would have been considered unclean if they had touched him.  Compassion and mercy were avoided when they made their position and worries about themselves more important than the needs of someone who had been hurt.

God’s call in our lives is to show care, concern, and compassion to others regardless of their position, ethnicity, legal status, culture, or whatever the circumstances might be.  Human beings are human beings, and they are all part of the human family.  That is not only the call from Jesus, but also the challenge to all of us.  Micah 6:8 tells us what God expects:  “. . . what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”  (NRSV)  Let us go and do likewise!

Where have you walked past or ignored human need?

How have you ministered to someone?

In what ways can we follow Jesus teachings more faithfully?

 

Arrogance

For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”  Luke 18:14b (NRSV)

The parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector shows a big contrast between arrogance and humility when praying.  While the Pharisee seems to actually be praying to himself as he proudly makes his list of accomplishments and pats himself on the back, the Tax Collector cries for mercy, recognizing that he is a sinner in need for forgiveness.

I suspect most of us might align ourselves with the tax collector in the sense that we probably think we don’t pray like the Pharisee did in this story.  Yet, Jesus’ point here is, I think, more about God than about us.  It’s more about the grace of God than it is about our own arrogance in praying for ourselves or giving thanks for all the good we do or the blessings we receive.  We often count our blessings in material goods:  a home, a car, a job, a good salary, health insurance, food on the table, and, oh yes – our families and friends.

Someone once sent an e-mail to me talking about thankfulness.  I don’t remember the exact wording, but the gist of it was something like this:  When I see someone who is homeless, I’m thankful I have a home.  When I see someone who is hungry, I’m thankful I have food on the table.  When I see someone who is collecting unemployment, I’m thankful I have a job.  When I see someone who is crippled, I’m thankful that I’m healthy.  And so forth.  It struck me then, as it does now, that there is a certain arrogance about this. 

It’s not that being thankful is wrong because I think we SHOULD give thanks every day of our lives – and often throughout the day.  What I find arrogant about it is the feeling that I get that the person is superior to others – is privileged – is better off than others and happy about it, but does nothing about it.  Of course, I know the person who sent it to me very well, and I have that impression of this person, so that probably doesn’t help my attitude about it!

However, even in the last statement I just wrote, there is an arrogance as I judge someone else’s mind-set and interpretation of being thankful.  It’s hard not to pass judgment and compare others to ourselves and our circumstances in life.  Maybe the point here is that human beings pass judgment all the time – maybe it’s necessary to our understanding of ourselves.  So the real question may be:  “Will we recognize that the grace of God is for ALL people, and that is the same grace we are asked to offer to others.” 

German concentration camp survivor Elie Wiesel wrote:  “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.  The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference.  The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference.  And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”  (http://en.thinkexist.com/quotes/elie_wiesel/)

I would guess the result of arrogance, judgmental attitudes, and self-aggrandizement is also indifference.  We can put our best foot forward as followers of Jesus when we see others through his eyes and then act on it, when we offer care and compassion to those who are hungry, thirsty, poor, in need, sick, in prison, and hurting.  By actively living out our faith in the world, we put aside indifference and glorify God.  Maybe it be so.

 

Being Put in Our Place

“When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them . . . when you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place.  But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you.  For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  Luke 14:7-11 (NRSV)

I’m sure we all know people who have a very high opinion of themselves – their own importance or status in life.  It can be annoying to have to deal with such egos.  Yet, I wonder if sometimes those people actually lack self-esteem.

Doesn’t it take a lot of self-esteem to be able to serve others and not worry about our own status in society?  When we look at the example of Jesus, we see someone who knew himself, was sure of himself, didn’t let himself be pushed around by others in authority, showed compassion for the down-trodden, and served without even really wanting the notoriety. 

Jesus was confident in his mission.  His status didn’t matter to him.  As his followers, maybe that’s one thing this parable does to remind us – we are followers who take to heart his guidance and teachings about putting others before ourselves.  We do this, not because we become door mats for others to use for wiping their feet, but because we want to share the love of Christ in the world, and we are confident in our mission as Christians.

I was reminded recently about visitors who had gone to some church somewhere and sat down toward the back of the church.  A woman who had attended the church for many years came to the pew and told them they would have to move because that was “her” pew.  If I had been those parishioners, I would have moved, all right – right out the door!

None of us is better than another person, rather, Jesus “puts us in our place” by telling us to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought and to find places where we can serve God in the name of Jesus Christ.  We can have the confidence of knowing that our mission and purpose in life is being fulfilled.  May it be so!

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