Pity looks down and feels sorry for the person in need. Compassion gets down and feels the pain with the person in need.
In Luke 10:25-37, a lawyer asks Jesus how he can get to heaven. Usually when Jesus is asked this question, He instructs the person to demonstrate a behavior like loving the least of these or selling his belongings to give to the poor. His intent is not to say that these actions will cause someone to go to heaven, rather that people who are going to heaven do those things. There's a difference.
The act of giving is a result of having a relationship with Christ. Once you have that relationship, you need to be open to the things God values. You also need to eliminate the habits and actions in your life that God rejects. If you are still doing these things, you need to question whether you really have a relationship with Christ. If you are His disciple, you follow Him and value the things He values, surrendering your life to Him.
The lawyer who asks Jesus about heaven in Luke 10 is really out to test Jesus, and later to avoid following through with what Jesus tells him.
And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Luke 10:25
But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Luke 10:29
This man is looking for a loophole, a way around Jesus' teaching. Many Christians try to do this as well. An unmarried couple may believe sex is acceptable for them because they love each other, when they know the Bible clearly names premarital sex as sin. A person may say it's okay to smoke because the Bible doesn't specifically teach against smoking, when they know that the Bible does teach that the human body is a temple and should be cared for diligently. What God desires from us is our whole lives, sacrificed in obedience and with love for Him. There is no loophole for that. Pastor Miles pointed out that it's pointless to try and test, trick, or manipulate God; He's much smarter than we are!
Jesus answers this lawyer with a parable:
Then Jesus answered and said: "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion." Luke 10:30-33
The two Jewish leaders are high on the religious ladder. Outwardly, they are righteous and seem to please God, yet inwardly they displease God because their hearts are uncompassionate. They pass by one of their own in need because of inconvenience. It takes a Samaritan-a man whose culture is in direct conflict with that of the Jews'-to reach out to this injured, abandoned man.
1) Compassion makes their pain your pain.
Pastor Miles shared that he likes to watch shows like Cops, not because he enjoys watching people suffer, but because it makes him angry that the devil has a foothold in people's lives. Seeing the poor choices and crime that people fall into makes him focused to pray and to reach those people in ministry.
What pain fires you up to make a difference?
2) Compassion turns your resources into their resources.
So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, "Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you." Luke 10:34-35
The Samaritan uses his own oil and wine, his own animal, and his own wages to care for the injured man.
Any resource we have belongs to God and a gift from God, meant to be used for His purposes. When God gives us a burden for others, we use whatever means available to us to help.
3) Compassion makes their struggle your struggle.
The Samaritan cared for the injured man as if he were his own brother. He walked with the man, nursed him, and provided safe lodging for him to ensure his care.
Pastor Miles recently went to Grand Cayman to prepare for a ministry event. While there, he felt God telling him that he needed to know the struggles of the people there (increase in crime, gangs, etc.) and make them his own struggles. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called to have that kind of compassion for one another.
Our culture tells us to make money, have fun, and be comfortable and happy, avoiding drama whenever possible. God says the opposite. He wants us to follow Him, even through very uncomfortable places, in order to serve and grow. When God is with us - we don't need to be afraid. We may feel uncomfortable, but exciting and amazing experiences await us.
Be the Samaritan kind of a neighbor this week. Our church exists to show compassion to others and service to God!