Compassion & Engagement


Matthew 20: 29-34 (NIV)

Two Blind Men Receive Sight

29 As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him.30 Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” 31 The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”
32 Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. 33 “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.” 34 Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.

Compassion Requires Engagement

Although it is technically a noun, compassion is an action word. Talking about compassion without action is simply meaningless. Moreover, expressing compassion requires a certain level of connection and engagement with others. I don’t think it works well at a distance because it requires a certain awareness of the fragility and volatility of life. As we discussed in our previous two devotionals, compassion involves a sincere desire to make a difference. Being aware of someone else’s life experience is one thing. Making a meaningful difference in their life experience is another animal all together. Many people are aware of poverty, sickness, discrimination, or injustice in their communities. However, very few are usually engaged in any meaningful way with those who are less fortunate than them.
Think about it. When was the last time you visited someone you didn’t know in a hospital, shelter, or prison? To what groups or entities do you volunteer your time or resources? When was the last time you voted for something that would benefit someone else and not you or your friends? When was the last time you seriously put yourself at risk to help someone else? I must confess that I hate questions like this because they completely expose how little I’m actually doing as oppose to what I think I’m doing. Yet, I keep revisiting them because they are necessary for my spiritual development. They remind me that I can’t practice my Christianity in isolation or controlled circles. If I am going to truly make heaven, I will have to be willing to engage in some of life’s unpleasantries that aren’t my own and do whatever I can to make them better. Why?Because that it was Jesus did throughout his entire time here on earth.
When we read the Gospels we see that Jesus routinely made broken people and situations that weren’t his own better. In Matthew 20, despite protests from the crowd, Jesus took the time to help two blind men in need. Beyond restoring their sight, we should take note of some other things in these scriptures as well:
  • Jesus never asked these men why they were blind
  • Jesus didn’t ask them why they hadn’t healed themselves already
  • Jesus did’t ask them if they deserved his time or skill
  • Jesus didn’t ask them their nationality or religion
I’ve learned something as a adult: Compassion isn’t about engaging people as much as it about engaging problems and issues. When we engage people, we often get more caught up in how we feel about the people and lose sight of the issue that is affecting them. The challenge for us all moving forward is being more focused on changing things that affect people so that our fellow humans being are free and unburdened enough to make changes for themselves.
Cecil Lettsome

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