The Air We Breathe – Compassion

For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.
The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

  • Deuteronomy 7:6-8

In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll,
    and out of gloom and darkness
    the eyes of the blind will see.
Once more the humble will rejoice in the Lord;
    the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
The ruthless will vanish,
    the mockers will disappear,
    and all who have an eye for evil will be cut down—
those who with a word make someone out to be guilty,
    who ensnare the defender in court
    and with false testimony deprive the innocent of justice.

  • Isaiah 29:18-21

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn, …

  • Isaiah 51:1-2

 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

  • Matthew 25:37-46

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

  • James 1:27

“We … have dominion over the world. Humanity was made to stand between heaven and earth—commissioned from above to care for that which is below. The kindness of God therefore flows down and out.
“ ‘Down and out’ describes the direction of travel for God’s love, but it’s also a good description of its typical recipient. Later in the Bible story, when God comes to select his ‘chosen people’—the ancient Israelites—he makes sure to underline his reasons.
“God loved helpless Israel, and his love met them precisely when they were ‘down and out’ in Egypt. Israel’s redemption from slavery, known as the exodus, was the definitive act of the Old Testament. In delivering the people from their captors and bringing them through the Red Sea, God was saving a despised and helpless people from the superpower of their day, and delivering them into the promised land—a land ‘flowing with milk and honey’.
“He did not do this because they were more impressive or worthy than others. He loved the loveless to make them lovely and to make them bearers of his love to the world. Compassion drove it all. This is the pattern for all of God’s activity in the Bible: compassion that flows ‘down and out’. And it flows to the ‘down and outs’. It meets the people in their weakness and then raises them up so they might share the blessings far and wide.

  • Glen Scrivener, The Air We Breathe

Rev. Scrivener seems to build within each chapter of his book the viewpoint of God, back to the early chapters of Genesis.  Early in the scriptures, God identifies these concepts that we assume to be like the Air that we Breathe.  Then the world becomes broken and these concepts, while maybe known deep inside us, are lost in this broken world.  Then in the teachings of Jesus, He does not invent these concepts, but reminds us of what we have lost.

God gave us dominion over the earth, but we are not to be domineering.  We are to lift up our brother who is less fortunate so that we can walk together.

One might wonder why only some were healed during Jesus’ time.  Jesus was restricted in His body to one place, yet even then the servant of the centurion was healed from a great distance, just by giving the centurion His word.  Jesus performed these miracles to satisfy Old Testament prophecies and to teach us to be compassionate beyond the thought and to the ultimate helping of the down and out, as Scrivener calls them.

But the outpouring of compassion by Jesus in many forms showed how the inequality in this broken world was not what God intended for us.  As our Sunday school class is in the early stages of a study on Jeremiah while I am writing this, we have learned that God often uses the unwanted results of our rebellion to punish us.  Wanton spending leads to having nothing later on.  Drunkenness leads to hangovers.  Illegal drug use has its side effects and the downer afterwards is too much after the brief high is gone.  But, Jesus could easily say, as God Himself, that our sins are forgiven and then the results of those sins vanish with the sin.  While we were sinners, Christ died for us.  He loves us that much.

I had three trips to India, oddly in three vastly different seasons.  The first trip was to an area south of Mumbai, on the southern coast of the bay.  I was there a month.  I saw seas of beggars.  The photo above is of the Gateway to India arch.  To the left of the arch is where the hydrofoils dock to take us to the southern end of the bay.  But beneath the photo, where you cannot see is where the legless and one-legged beggars beg for a coin.  You even have compassion for the 5-7 year old pick pockets that smile at you while they are emptying your pockets of the coins.  There is so much suffering that I cannot imagine how someone could not be moved by compassion.

Yet, I say that with Jesus in my heart.  Many people would consider the beggars to be untouchable.  Many people would love to eliminate the poor by eliminating the poor.  Much of our government legislation worldwide is designed to look good in the public eye, but special interest groups and the rich seem to be the only ones to ultimately benefit.  Major movements of billions and trillions of dollars end up in the wrong hands, helping enough of the poor so that the politicians have a chance for a photo opportunity.

As Jesus said, they have gotten their reward.

But I look at Jesus’ words, and it makes me shudder.  “But, Lord, there are so many.  And to a degree, I am only a step or two away from being right there with them.”

I am reminded of the old story of two friends walking along the beach.  One friend reached down and picked up a sand dollar and threw it into the ocean.  His friend bickered about why he was doing that.  There were so many sand dollars that washed onto the shore every day.  He could never save them all.

His friend picked up another sand dollar.  He said, “It matters to this one” and then tossed it into the ocean.

Lord, guide me.  Help me to see my brother or sister in need.  Help me to respond to their need, helping them.  In Thy Name I pray.  Amen

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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