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Posts Tagged ‘compassion’

By Steve Blanchard

Poverty. Fear. Homelessness. Violence. Prejudice. Isolation. These things most of us never experience. We may dabble with them on some level but for the most part, most of us never experience these on a deep or daily level.

There is a world out there like this – not necessarily a world across the ocean but maybe one just down the street from where you live, or one you pass every day.

Imagine a World UnknownImagine a city where 30% of its citizens live below the poverty line; between 800 and 1700 of its citizens are homeless, many of them children; thousands of its citizens have no jobs; many cannot speak the local language because they have fled violence and famine in their home countries; slavery still thrives. Imagine Richmond, Virginia.

What is the responsibility of our church? What does God command us Christians to do in the face of such overwhelming complexities?

Do we pretend the problems don’t exist? Do we hand off the responsibility to the government or other entities? Do we lock our doors and pray it all goes away? There is only one answer to these questions. No.

God is clear throughout Scripture that our call is to confront the evils of this world. We know we’re not alone in doing so, for God also promises to go before us and to give us the courage, strength and tools to fight the battle. He calls us to love our neighbor, to embrace the poor, to show mercy, love and grace to those we meet. He calls us to care.

Each of us has our share of problems – busy schedules, finances, relationships, fears, etc., but do we not serve a God who is greater than all that? Compassion is not something we have the luxury of choosing to embrace. As Christians, we are commanded to do so. Not with an air of superiority or duty, but with a motive of love – love of God and of our fellow human beings.

We all encounter those around us who are struggling. We most likely are struggling ourselves. But imagine we all move outside ourselves and truly have compassion for everyone we encounter, whether indirectly or face-to-face. Imagine we become open enough to feel something akin to love; imagine we then choose to act.

Maybe we won’t know what to do; maybe we won’t know what to say. But we can place our fears and responses in God’s hands and then simply act. Maybe we offer a cup of cold water, or speak out against an injustice, or simply offer a listening presence or shoulder to cry on, but at least we don’t stand by and do nothing. Imagine we don’t avoid knowing the world around us.

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By Steve Blanchard.

A morning without coffeeMark (not his real name) was on his way to get a much-needed cup of morning coffee at a local convenience store. He had a long day ahead of him and a to-do list whose length rivaled that of War and Peace. As he got out of his car, he noticed a woman squatted beside the ice machine. He thought she was homeless and though he was sympathetic, he just did not have time to talk.

But as he opened the door for another customer, something told him not to ignore her. She was cold, she was crying, and the voice inside his head screamed at him not to walk away. “I’ll just stop for a moment,” he thought, “buy her a cup of coffee, maybe a Danish, and move on.” That would make her – and him – feel better. As he knelt down beside her, he asked, “Are you okay?” “No”, responded the woman, in a half-harsh, half-sad, tone, “just leave me alone.”

That was his out. He tried to be a Good Samaritan but she rejected his humble effort, so time to get that coffee. Then he thought he’d give it one more try. “Are you sure? You look like you need some help. Can I get you a cup of coffee or something?” Again, the woman said, “NO! What I really need is to be left alone. Things are just too bad. I don’t want to even live anymore so just, please, leave me alone and let me die.”

Mark didn’t know what to do. He could walk away and pray for her, which sounded like a good idea. He could call someone, the police maybe. But something deep inside him made him press forward. He knew that God didn’t want him to go, didn’t want him to hand this lady off to anyone else. She had appeared in his path for a reason and now his faith mandated he stay.

He was nervous, he was scared, he did not know what to do. People were watching, him and the crying, woman, both on the dirty sidewalk next to the ice machine. What would they think? Then it dawned on him, the only thing that mattered at that moment was in front of him. He prayed, he talked, he listened and then started all over again. In the end, he took her to his church. He left her alone to sit with God when he felt it safe to do so. He prayed some more. Hours later, the crisis passed.

Mark realized that every day God places in our path people who need us to see, to feel and to act, according to His will. Extending compassion to others is not something we really have a choice about if we are being faithful in our walk with Jesus. It is a necessity; it is a call we cannot, or at least should not, avoid. Despite our fears, our schedules, our ignorance, our prejudices, or any other barrier we construct, God calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Sometimes that love only becomes complete by our putting it into action.

But don’t worry, God has already been there, He is there, and He will be there when your part is over. All we have to do is trust and obey.

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