Tag Archives: compassion

Jesus Would Have Loved It

You can’t touch the Queen of England.  That is a strict rule of etiquette and tradition.  But back in 1991, there was an African American woman whose childcare facility got a royal visit.  Maybe she didn’t get the memo.  More likely, that rule didn’t compute for her; when you welcome someone in her culture, you give ’em a warm hug.  So that’s what she did!  Everyone gasped, but I’m guessing the Queen loved it…  Best hug she’d had in years, no doubt.

Everyone gasped when Jesus’ disciples picked some heads of grain to eat on a Sabbath day.  The Pharisees were quick to criticize but Jesus told them to back off and get a better understanding of God’s Word.  He said:

“If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.” (Matthew 12:7)

To paraphrase what He meant, God would much rather have us adopt the attitude of His heart than try to earn brownie points by coldly following all the religious rules.  God would rather have you hug Him than stand at a distance and genuflect.  He wants us to have hearts of “mercy.”

“Mercy” weakly translates the Hebrew word, hesed, which is rich with deep meaning.  “Hesed” describes a savory stew of faithfulness, compassion, grace, loyalty, and love all expressed in the context of an intimate relationship.  “Hesed” is the word that is used to characterize the heart of God.  “Hesed” is what He wants most for us to hold in our hearts.  “Hesed” is how God wants us to treat each other.

A group of us were visiting the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem.  As we waited in line, someone, who could not contain her joy, began to sing: “Joy to the world, the Lord is born!” Others joined in and our harmonies began to fill the lofty stone arches of the cathedral that had been built to honor this wonderful birth.   But the priests on duty there were having none it.  They descended upon us, scowling and scolding and wagging their fingers.  “No singing in here!”   But I couldn’t help think…

“If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.” (Matthew 12:7)

I couldn’t help think, “Jesus would have loved it.”




Despite what you may have heard,  DMV employees are not zombies. It       just seems that way because they have become emotionally anesthetized.  They probably started out happy in their new job and eager to serve the public.  But the endless stream of people with the same questions, the same missing paper work, the same complaints, day after day, over time, dulls even the best of them.  It takes a rare individual to maintain empathy in situations like that.  Rare like Jesus.

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.   When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. – Matthew 9:35-36

Try to put yourself in Jesus’ position.  You have come to tell people about God and to rescue them from spiritual    destruction.  Along the way you see someone with a disease and, because you can, you decide to heal them.  But then the word gets out and you are at the center of a mob scene.

It’s endless:  crippled people, blind people, sick people, neurotic people, crazy people.  Every face wears the desperate expression of deep neediness.  You can imagine yourself throwing up your hands and shouting, “Enough, already!  No more healings today; Everybody go home.”

But instead of running out of emotional gas, Jesus looks at all the people and He gets it.  He understands why they are feeling so needy.  He has compassion for them.  He sees they are like “sheep without a shepherd.”

Here’s why this matters to you.  When you have a need in your life that only God can supply, you need to know you don’t have to take a number and wait in the back of the room, like you do at the DMV.  You need to know that you won’t be misunderstood or turned away because you don’t have the right paperwork.  You need to know that it’s Jesus behind the counter and that He gets it.  He understands what you need and why you feel so needy.  Jesus has compassion for you, not frustration.  You can trust Him.

Beware of the Dog

According to Jesus, some folks act like dogs and pigs.  He said, give ’em a wide berth:

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.  (Matthew 7:6)

Maybe that doesn’t sound like Jesus to you.  What does He mean?  The first principle in figuring that out is to ask, what has He been talking about?  What is the context of what He said?  In this case, Jesus had just taught us not to condemn others (Matthew 7:1-2) but rather, to approach them to help with compassion and humility, fully aware of our own faults (Matthew 7:3-5).  If this is a continuation of that topic, then He means, realize that there are some people who are not ready or able to receive your help.  Trying to help those people may truly make it worse.

The dogs of Jesus’ day were not domesticated; they were wild and dangerous.  Pigs, too – and they were also considered unclean for the observant Jew.  We’ve all encountered people who, at least for the moment, were acting like dogs and pigs.  The best and most compassionate help, as valuable as it may otherwise be, will have no value to a person in that condition.  Don’t try to force it on him.

When Jesus refers to something sacred or holy, it is important to recognize that things we do in obedience to Him are sacred and holy.  Water to the thirsty, clothes for the needy – these are sacred acts when motivated by an appreciation for Jesus’ teachings about reality and about God.  So too, would be a genuinely compassionate and humble attempt to help someone stuck in destructive behavior.  So too, would be an attempt to explain the amazing truth about Jesus and the wonderful life that awaits those who comprehend it.  But, as sacred as they are, those acts only have value – they only really help – if they are received by the person to whom they are offered.  When that person reacts with hostility and anger, it is time to back off, for your own well being and to preserve the value and effectiveness of what has been offered.  There may be a better time.

As I write, I recall in my own life, the many times I acted as a wild dog and an irreverent pig.  Those who tried to shove “help” down my throat were angrily turned away.  I also humbly recall that God did not give up on me.