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Living with Compassion

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Twice in the gospel of Luke, Jesus is asked what one must do to inherit eternal life. In Luke 10:25-37, when Jesus reminds the man who asked Him the question that we are to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves, this lawyer challenges Jesus to clarify who, exactly, is his neighbor. Jesus replies with the story of the Good Samaritan, in which a Jewish man is mugged and left half dead on the side of the road. Both a priest and an assistant to a priest (a Levite) walk by, ignoring the injured man. Then a Samaritan, a member of a social class despised by the Jews, binds the man’s wounds, takes him to an inn and pays the innkeeper to take care of him. Thus, Jesus demonstrated that loving one’s neighbor means showing compassion toward those who might, if the situation were reversed, not show compassion toward us.

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Similarly, in Luke 18:18-30, a ruler in the synagogue asks Jesus the same question. Jesus reminds him of the Ten Commandments, to which the man replies that he has kept all of them faithfully. Jesus then challenges him to sell his possessions and distribute money to the poor. Again, His challenge to this pious man, and to us, is radical, selfless compassion.

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Merriam-Webster defines compassion as “sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” In order to show compassion we must, first, be conscious of another’s distress and, second, have sympathy enough to alleviate it.

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The apostle Paul wrote, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Cor. 1:3-4). Because God comforts us in our troubles, we should turn around and comfort others in “any trouble.”

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Any trouble? Does that mean I am called to help someone who makes me uncomfortable? Like the homeless person I pass on my way to work every morning? Or the person whose sinful choices have led them down a path of pain and rejection? Or the person who simply looks different from me?

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Jesus would answer with a resounding YES! If I learn nothing else from His parables, I need to take away the fact that Jesus calls us to radical, self-sacrificing compassion. This challenges me to examine how I spend my resources—my time, my talents, my treasure. Am I using them selfishly? Or am I using them to “comfort those in any trouble.”

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"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for the, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Matt. 9:36, ESV). May the Holy Spirit give you a heart for those who are hurting and in need of a Savior. Just Between Us (JBU) has compiled these articles on living with compassion for you to browse, ponder and hopefully, apply.

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