Compassion: It’s a Messy Word

Compassion: It’s a Messy Word

Matthew 9:35-36
June 16, 2019

Jesus once told the story of a man that was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. He was beaten and robbed and left for dead. Two religious people came by. They may have felt bad for him, but neither did anything for him. But later, a Samaritan, a man of another race, came by and attended to the man’s wounds, put him on his donkey, and carried him to a nearby Inn. The Samaritan gave money to the innkeeper and asked him to care for the man. He told the innkeeper he would pay more when he came back through if necessary.

Jesus told this story to a man that had asked him, “Who is my neighbor?” When Jesus asked him which of the three men was the neighbor to the wounded man, he responded with a simple but appropriate answer. It was the one that had shown compassion.

One of the things we learn about compassion from this story is that showing compassion can be messy.

Think about it. The Samaritan attend to his wounds. He used his wine and what he had to bandage up the man’s injuries. That was messy. Any time we attend to someone’s wounds, whether they are physical, emotional, or psychological, it’s messy.

He had to change his schedule. Have you ever had to change your flight, leave your vacation early, cancel an important date? It’s messy, right? Would you do that to help a stranger? The Samaritan altered his schedule.

Then he had to sacrifice his money. That’s messy. A lot of us don’t want to give away money to people we love, or even to the ministries of the church. This man did it for a stranger.

Why? Because he had compassion.

The Greek word for “compassion” is splänkh-nē’-zo-mī. This word is used to refer to the inner parts of an animal, the intestines, especially the womb. It was picked up and used to refer to the compassion God had for us.

We have a similar word when we want to say that someone has a lot of courage, we say, “That took a lot of guts.”

It’s our way of saying, “That took something deep down within that person for him or her to do that.”

Likewise, splänkh-nē’-zo-mī has to come from deep down within us. It’s not something we do without counting the cost.

When the Hebrew people observed the Passover, they remembered God’s compassion for them.

Exodus 34:6, God is said to be full of compassion, pity, mercy, goodness, and truth.

For over 400 years, the Hebrew people lived with little or no hope. They were forgotten. Only God could save the Hebrew people from Pharaoh, and He did.

To get Pharaoh to release them, there were plagues of flies, locusts, frogs, and ultimately the death of the firstborn of all the land. That’s messy.

Only those that had applied the blood of the Passover Lamb to the doorposts of their homes were spared. Again, that’s messy, but it demonstrated their faith in this God of compassion.

From now on, when you hear the word “compassion,” I want you to remember that it’s a messy word.

Perhaps this is the reason the Passover involved the taking of a lamb and sacrificing it. It was messy. It was sacrificial.

But I also want you to remember that it is more costly not to be compassionate.

What if God had not been moved to compassion to help the Hebrew slaves? Think of the cost of that? Think of the suffering they would have continued to endure.

What if that Samaritan had not been moved to help the man left in the ditch for dead? He would probably have died.

When no one is moved to compassion, the cost is much greater.

The scripture says, “Jesus was moved with compassion for the (people,) “because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:35-36)

What if Jesus had not been moved to compassion for those people and us?

Jesus counted the cost of his compassion. He knew compassion was going to be a messy matter. Jesus knew that it was going to cost him his life. He showed his humanity by asking God to allow him to avoid the cross, because who wants to walk into that kind of a mess, but he told God he would do his will.

Just for a moment, will you picture what happened before Jesus went to the cross? Remember the beating he took?  He probable received the customary forty lashes minus one. They almost killed him before he arrived, ripping pieces of flesh from his back.

Now imagine the crucifixion of Jesus. Can there be any messier scene than the cross?

The only reason Jesus hung on that cross was that he had compassion for you and me.

Just think how messy life would be if God had no compassion on any of us. What if there were no cross?

What if there were no compassion for the wrongs we have done in our lives? What if we were consumed by the sins we commit? What if God’s anger burned against us? We if God were unforgiving? Think about the mess that would be.

In a country like Liberia, where there has been unspeakable savagery through the years, but there has also been Christ-like sacrifice.

Because of the love and compassion of Jesus, it makes it possible for love and compassion to exist everywhere, in people all over this world.

One of those shining lights was Napoleon Braithwaite. Napoleon worked for the Minister of Health in Monrovia, so he was well schooled about Ebola.

He was also well schooled in the Liberian way of life, a life of suffering and hardship.

His first wife died during childbirth. His second wife died because of a lack of medical care.

During the war, the rebel soldiers invaded his home and took everything he owned. They even removed his toilet.

However, throughout the war, Napoleon and his third wife raised a family of eight children, and he preached hope to his people.

After graduating from the Liberian Baptist Theological Seminary, he became the pastor of Peaceful Baptist Church in the early 1980s.

One September morning, a very sick woman knocked on his door and asked to use his phone to call an ambulance. She knew he was one of the few people around who had a phone.

An ambulance was called, but she was told they could not respond.

Knowing the risks of what he was about to do, he put the woman in his car and drove her to a hospital. He knew he would be able to make it through the various checkpoints along the way.

Napoleon’s compassion would not allow her to die alone without some dignity.

Several days later, Napoleon began to run a fever. Fearing the worst, his friends prayed that he was sick with Malaria. But it was not to be. He succumbed to Ebola a few weeks later at the age of 55.

Compassion is messy, and sometimes, the cost of compassion seems too high, but Napoleon did not die in vain.

The All-African News ran a story on the front page, “Death of Key Aide Changes the Focus of the Ministry of Health as We Face Ebola.”

If there is no compassion, we lose our humanity. But we lose something more. We lose our connection to God.

Napoleon reminded his people and us that compassion is a messy thing, but without it, people die with no hope and no chance of knowing Jesus.

Compassion can save this world from imploding on itself. It can save us from our greed and selfish desires.

It is often costly and sacrificial. But it costs a lot more to live in a world without it.

It would be nice if we could be compassionate without being wounded, but when we come alongside others and care for them, we will feel some of the emotional and physical burdens which they carry.

It is unavoidable. Jesus taught us that. Jesus also taught us that compassion could change the world.

For Jesus, compassion is for more than a feeling, and we should understand that when we look at the cross. Compassion is a verb. It is action. It is getting involved in the needs of others.

For Jesus, compassion was the willingness to enter into another’s pain and suffering to deliver them from it, even those who opposed him.

Listen to the words of Jesus: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt. 5:43-44 NIV)

There are times when we can rise above our natural inclinations and accomplish this. However, most of the time, it is our nature to strike back at those who strike at us, instead of showing them compassion.

Jesus had compassion even for his enemies. That was in full display on the cross as he prayed for God not to hold his death against those who were crucifying him. If that’s not messy, I don’t know what is.

But look at it this way. At what point did any of us deserve the compassion that God showed to us through Jesus?

To underscore this point by sharing these words of Jesus to his disciples: “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Do not even tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even Gentiles do the same? (46-47)

So an element to splänkh-nē’-zo-mī has nothing to do with whether a person is innocent or guilty, or deserves our time, effort, or money.

If Jesus only extended compassion to those who deserved it, who among us would have ever experienced it?

Splänkh-nē’-zo-mī is first and foremost about our connection and relationship with the Savior. We show compassion because Jesus showed compassion to us.

When Jesus has gotten enough mess out of us, then we are usually more willing to share someone else’s mess with them.

D.L. Moody, a very famous preacher, says that when he was in Boston, he used to attend a Sunday school class. One day his teacher visited him at work and came around behind the counter of the shop where he worked.
He put his hand on his shoulder and talked to him about his Christ and his soul.
He said he had never felt he had a soul till then. He said to himself, “This is a very strange thing. Here is a man who never saw me till lately, and he is weeping over my sins, and I never shed a tear about them.”

But after that day, he understood what it meant to have a passion for men’s souls and weep over their sins. He said that he did not remember what he said, but he would always feel the power of that man’s hand on his shoulder.”
The compassion and tears of that godly teacher resulted in the conversion of a man who saw a million souls saved in his evangelistic campaigns.http://ministry127.com/resources/illustration/weeping-for-the-lost
Once you’ve had someone care about your mess, and has had compassion for you, it’s a lot easier to care about the mess of someone else.
We cannot change or fix another’s mess, only avail ourselves to help them.
I believe that the Good Samaritan had experienced compassion himself, and because of that, he understood how important it was to share it with others.
If you are not a person of compassion, perhaps you have not experienced the compassion of Jesus.

You can be religious and not be compassionate.

When we experience Jesus coming into our lives and helping us straighten out our mess, we should be more sympathetic and understanding about the mess that others have in their lives.

But sometimes, religious people are the worst. Sometimes, religious people think so highly of ourselves that we look down on anyone that’s made a mess of their lives. Sometimes, religious people make the worst enemies. Sometimes, religious people will pass by those in need while we are on our way to church. Sometimes, religious people are the last to admit that we’ve made a mess of things.

Sometimes Christians forget that Jesus’ compassion is the only thing that stands between us and hell. If we would remember that, perhaps we would be more compassionate to those who need our love.

Would you bow your heads?
If your life is a mess, ask Jesus, the God of compassion to have mercy on you. Jesus loves you and will help you straighten out your life.
If your heart is hard, and it is difficult for you to have compassion for others, then focus more on the compassion Jesus has for you, and not on the life of the other person.
Finally, Lord, we thank you for the gifts of compassion shown to us by Jesus through his life, death, and resurrection. Through His Spirit give us the courage to enter into the lives of others by showing compassion in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Photo Credit: purposeprinciplespassion.com