the boldness of compassion

Picture the scene on this Sabbath day, certainly similar to so many others. There is a man with a withered hand, and perhaps parents tell their children not to stare at him. Some of the crowd likely feels what they consider pity inside themselves, but they don’t dare to show it. The religious leaders have already made it clear what they think of “sinners” such as this man.

The man named Jesus is also here on this Sabbath, and the air feels tense as the religious leaders watch him. He also watches them carefully, as if it is possible for Him to understand exactly what they are thinking of Him. Then He calls the poor man to come. With an air of uncertainty and hope, the man cautiously makes his way to Jesus. What will the religious leaders think? Is it possible that Jesus is taking notice of him?

The question Jesus asks is striking: “Shall we do good or harm? Save life or destroy?” It makes sense: a withered hand is enough to destroy this man’s life and leave him as a poor outcast from society, no matter how hard he works with his good hand. Jesus deliberately looks around at all the people, before instructing the man: “Stretch out your hand.”

How does someone stretch out a withered hand? Certainly, if such a thing were possible, he would have done so long before now. For once, the parents are no longer whispering for their children to look away because now all eyes, including their own, are fixed on the man standing before Jesus.

Incredibly, the man obeys Jesus, doing precisely what he has never been able to do before. Thrusting out his hand, it is there before him, whole and well just as his other hand.

The reactions to this miracle are as unmistakable as they are varied. The man himself appears overcome with wonder and gratitude. He moves and feels his hand, experiencing the wholeness that he never could so much as dream of. But the religious leaders, they turn to one another to speak, and they are filled fury. Impossible as it seems, rage is written on their faces and laced in their low voices.  Over the rest of the crowd looking on, a hush has fallen.

A good deed has been done, praise the Lord!
This Savior, God with us, is setting at liberty those who are oppressed,
proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor!

(Luke 6:6-11)

Jesus knew their thoughts, comprehending that healing on the Sabbath would enrage the religious leaders- He did it anyway. There were only two options according to Jesus: save a life or destroy it. Could a truly compassionate heart do such a thing as Jesus suggested: that is, decide to destroy? No. Jesus had true compassion; therefore, He had boldness to do good for a person in need.

Let’s not think of compassion as something for sensitive or weak people, or boldness as something that lacks mercy. Jesus brought these two traits together in a beautiful, revolving way.

Over and over, the example of Jesus is compassion coupled with distinct boldness. Shall we feel compassion inside ourselves but do nothing outwardly? Then it should not be called compassion. True compassion is bold. True compassion does not care what people think of it or shy away from offending. Instead it is exactly what Jesus demonstrated time and again while he walked on earth: love for hurting people that acted to save lives, no matter the cost. 


6 thoughts on “the boldness of compassion

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    1. Thank you for reading my posts, Jonathan! Yes, Jesus is the best example! I find that sometimes I gloss through reading the gospels because I’ve heard them so many times, but lately I’ve been trying to stop and think about everything more. It’s so encouraging. :)

  1. Listened to that sermon by Ryan Fullerton today. First of all, I loved how he got everything he preached on from Luke. I feel like that book is so underappreciated in the circles we run in. It’s not heavy on the theological side of things, so it’s kinda like we just get through it so we can get to John. But it’s still so rich! And this example you’ve drawn out from Chapter 6 is a perfect one. Jesus’ heart is so full of compassion, from Luke’s perspective, and I feel like we neglect that aspect of Christlikeness so much in the church today. And it may be because of the abuses, yes, but that’s no excuse to refrain from living compassionately toward the lost all together!

    Ryan Fullerton’s sermon hit so many chords with me. I was thinking of applications all the way through, and the things he was revealing in Luke 15 were amazing… So practical. And convicting. Yet I felt so eager to get out and start living out what he preaches. I immediately shared it with one of my elders who I knew would really resonate with it, and I want to share it with my dad too. I would love to see our church get more involved with welcoming sinners (in a totally non-seeker-sensitive way, as he was so careful to specify ;) ). And we must seek to show them the same kindness and compassion that Christ showed those in His time. He wasn’t bogged down by an understanding that everyone around Him was a worthless sinner. Instead, He was invigorated to show greater compassion to the worthless, because the only reason they are deemed worthless by God is because their sinfulness has obscured the deep worth that they truly have. Every creation of God is valuable, worth a million universes, because it’s a soul that will live forever, as Mr. Fullerton said so eloquently. And so how can we not actively seek them out with hearts full of compassion, to inform them of their intrinsic worth as creations of God and of the lengths He went to to save sinners like them?

    We are truly lacking an integral part of what it means to be Christlike if we major on the doctrine of Jesus but minor on the compassionate lifestyle of Jesus. May we seek to walk in *all* ways as He walked, not just the ones that initially seem to fit nicely inside our theological boxes. ;)

    1. I’m so glad you got an opportunity to listen to that sermon! I thought you’d appreciate it. :)

      Luke is my favorite of the synoptic gospels, likely because he includes a lot of details in his narrative that the others didn’t and really elaborates on the stories. (Can’t help it that I like stories so much!) I’m “meditating” through the book with one of my friends, taking it just like a paragraph or two at a time and writing down all my thoughts and reflections. I love paying attention to the way Jesus acted, not just thinking through the things that He said: both are rich and convicting.

      I think anytime we become reactionary to something that’s wrong, we lose some of the beauty and power of truth. If our understanding of compassion is based on a reaction to people who have abused the concept, we’ll never be able to fully get the depth of what compassion truly is and should look like. We’ve got to go back to Scripture, look long and hard at Jesus, and then imitate Him, without worrying what people will assume about us because of it.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Your long comments are awesome; I really appreciate getting thoughtful feedback and being able to dialog about thoughts here.

      1. I’m glad you appreciate the long comments, because every time I finish writing one and hit “Post Comment,” I’m immediately afraid it was too verbose or that you’re gonna wish I’d said it more succinctly. =p

        It sounds really awesome to be meditating slowly through the book. Seems like it would make thinking on the truths of a passage throughout the day a lot more meaningful, since you’re not trying to remember things from 3 or 4 chapters you read, but just a small section. I may just have to try that sometime. =)

        1. No worries there. :)
          And yes, I enjoy it a lot- just wish I’d meditated on Scripture like this long before now!

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