Christianity 201

March 1, 2019

Pity vs. Compassion: What’s the Difference?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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This is actually our fifth time featuring resources from Seedbed, but each of the previous ones was the videos in their Seven Minute Seminary series. This time we join them in print for an excellent devotional by J. D. Walt.

On the Difference Between Pity and Compassion

Luke 7:11-17

Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”

Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

CONSIDER THIS

Jesus went to a town called Nain. Jesus was not just wandering around the countryside. Every step he made held significance beyond our ability to even comprehend. Everything he did had profound theological significance and yet it all was insanely practical. He turned water into wine, a mystery whose theological meaning we are still discerning. All the while he was solving a major problem at a wedding celebration– the wine ran out. Watch as this same dynamic unfolds in today’s text.

So why Nain? Nain was a small town about six miles south of Nazareth in Galilee. We are about to see the clashing of movements. Jesus is followed by his disciples and a large crowd of people as they near the city gate. Just as they arrive, a funeral procession is leaving the city with a large crowd following a widow with her deceased and only son. The movement of Life is meeting up with the movement of death. Imagine the contrast between the joyfully astonished throng following Jesus and the mournfully broken crowd following the widow and the dead son. We are in for a cosmic confrontation.

When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”

Far from easy sympathy, Jesus had compassion on this woman. I’ve heard charity described as giving someone the shirt you no longer want and compassion as giving someone the shirt off of your back. I love this translation. “His heart went out to her.” When I say, in response to some tragedy, “My heart goes out to them,” what I mean is I feel sorry for them. That’s about it. With Jesus, it’s more like his heart actually leaves his body and enters into the body of another person. This is precisely what God has done in Jesus and continues to do through Jesus in the strength of the Holy Spirit. This is what it means for one person to “be with” another person; to enter into their reality and experience so deeply that their presence cannot be distinguished from your own. In the midst of two large crowds converging at the narrow place of a city gate, Jesus “saw her.” God seeks out the brokenhearted. We know “his heart went out to her” not because he said something nice but because he made a bee line straight to her. He was not at this funeral. He didn’t know these people. He was doing something else entirely, but he went straight to her.

So many times I have been in a hospital to see a particular person. As I approach their room I walk past and see so many other people, most of whom are all alone. Something in me says just knock on their door and ask if you can help them, pray for them, get them some water. Too often, though, I reason to myself that I don’t know them, that they have “people”, that it would be an unwanted intrusion to do this and I just go on about my business. In retrospect, I think the Holy Spirit was bursting at the seams to release the heart of God in those hospital rooms but was coming up short on Jesus types to actually do it. Lesson learned.

It’s so rare for someone to “be with” us like this. It requires the kind of attention of which only Divine Love is capable and this is the amazing thing about Jesus. He naturalizes Divine Love as a fully human expression. This is how he wants us to “be with” each other and particularly the broken and hurting among us. This is who the Holy Spirit is and what the Holy Spirit does: He naturalizes and normalizes Divine Love in and through our ordinary lives in all our dealings with one another. It’s all at once miraculous and ordinary. And Daily Text readers, this is not just the pastor’s job. This is all of our shared privilege together. I would love to tell you a story about Brother Buddy Ratliff who does this as well as I’ve ever seen it done, and I’d love to tell you a story about a community of Africans who taught me what this kind of “being with others” looks like in the wake of tragic loss.

I need to close for the day. Jesus tells her not to cry and then he shows us all why. He walks over to the dead son and talks to him. Yes, he speaks to a corpse:

“Young man, I say to you, get up!”

And lo and behold the MIRACLE happened!

The dead man sat up and began to talk,

The life movement won out over the death movement. Sooner or later, it always does. You want to know the real miracle here? It’s in this last bit:

and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

You see, this widow had not only lost her son, she had essentially lost her life. She was completely disconnected from the community with no source of status or sustenance. She had truly joined the ranks of “the poor.” This act of Jesus giving the boy back to his mother was a profound Gospel move, restoring not only her son but her life as well. Profoundly theological. Insanely practical.

The people were awestruck. I love that they said this:

“God has come to help his people.”

That’s what we want to be said in the wake of our being with others in the midst of hardship, struggle, loss and pain: “God has come to help his people.”

Tomorrow, we’ve been invited to join Jesus for a meal in the home of a Pharisee. It will be interesting. Prepare yourself.

P.S. Some of you may have felt a little deja vu in today’s text. That wasn’t a glitch in the matrix. Jesus doesn’t miss a trick. To see what I’m talking about check out this Elijah story.

THE PRAYER

Father God, thank you for showing us what it looks like when the movement of Life overcomes the movement of Death. It’s who you are. Lord, I want to be in that number; part of that movement. Open my eyes and my heart and my faith to this awakening movement today. IN Jesus name, Amen.

THE QUESTION

What stands out to you about this story today? Why do you think it stands out to you? What does it awaken in you?


Get J. D. Walt’s latest book, THE FIRST REAL CHRISTIAN, or his new church-wide Lenten Study, LISTEN TO HIM. Subscribe to get devotionals like this in your email inbox here.

October 27, 2018

Many of our Problems are due to Selfishness

We’re back for a sixth time with Paul Steele at the blog Paul’s Ponderings. Click the title below to read at source.

Be Disturbed

We live in a world full of good. It has exceptional beauty, delicious food, amazing fun, and wonderful relationships.

In spite of the good we experience in the world, we know it is not entirely good. Our experience of life tells us that the world is a combination of good and evil.

According to the Bible, the world was created good by God, but has been corrupted by the sin of angels and humans. We live in a fallen world.

One of the ways we see this corruption at work is the selfishness that exists in people. The worst selfishness that we are exposed to is the selfishness that exists in our own hearts.

Many of the problems that we face throughout life, both big and small, can be traced back to selfishness.

This reality is understandable when we remember that we spend our entire lives with ourselves. Our entire perspective on life centers around our experience of the world. It is logical to expect that our comfort, cares, and desires would be at the forefront of what we are most concerned about.

Christian spiritual formation is important because it calls us to lay aside our cares and concerns and adopt the cause of Jesus. For this to happen we have to intentionally lay aside our rights and desires. It is through those process we are able to understand the injustices and indignities inflicted and the rest of humanity.

Dallas Willard wrote:

“Apprentices of Jesus will be deeply disturbed about many things, but they will be largely indifferent to the fulfillment of their own desires as such. Merely getting their own way has no significance for them, does not disturb them.”

Renovation of the Heart, p. 72

Pause for a moment and ponder: What disturbs you?

When I think about what disturbs me on a regular basis I am saddened. I am saddened because I get the most disturbed by the inconveniences and interruptions to my agenda.

God has shown me this reality through my children. I dearly love my three kids, but they have the ability of frustrating me like no one else does. Why is that?

I get frustrated, I get disturbed, because they have minds of their own and they don’t always do what I ask them to do. They disrupt my plan and that bothers me.

What is the cure for that? The cure is to become like Jesus.

The apostle Paul wrote:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. (Philippians 2:3-5; NLT)

Here we discover the goal of Christian spiritual formation: to develop the attitude of Jesus.

Key to this attitude is humility. It is having that ability to look past our own agenda and see the needs of other people. We are to take an interest in the lives of those around us.

One of my favorite passages for the Gospels is Matthew 9:36:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (NLT)

Jesus was disturbed by the needs of the people around him. He didn’t blame them for their condition or lecture them about the inconvenience they were causing him, but he had compassion on them. They needed help and he took time to help them.

One of the prayers we need to pray in our pursuit of Christian formation is to see the world through the eyes of Jesus. We need to see the things that disturb Jesus so we can learn what should be disturbing us as well.


As I was reading Paul’s Ponderings, I really appreciated all of the articles written for October, 2018 and encourage you to visit to read more.

February 21, 2013

In The Hands of One Who Cares for You

Today we’re featuring Timothy Foster who is a brand new member of Faithful Bloggers and whose Bible study and devotional blog is titled Worship Forward+.  As always, we encourage you to click through to read at source.  (With a limited number of posts to date, you can read everything he’s written!) I think many of you will like Timothy’s writing style in this piece, which appeared at his blog as He Likes Me, He Really Likes Me. (You can encourage new bloggers with a comment on their page.)

During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said,  “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat.  If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.” (Mark 8:1-3 NIV84)

Poor Sally Field, our blog post title today comes from that memorable speech she made at the Oscars in 1984 where she said, “… The first time I didn’t feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me.”  Whatever that speech really meant, I think among other things, it sort of hits on an emotional challenge many have, and that is that we really crave to be truly, deeply, cared for, “liked”, and loved.  We don’t want lip service, we don’t want to be “stroked”, we want to know and feel that someone out there really and truly cares.

I was moved in the Mark passage by Jesus’ loving reaction to the physical condition of the people to whom He had been ministering so fervently.  Mark explains that He had compassion for the people.  Here Jesus, teaching for 3 days, probably exhausted and hungry himself, has the magnitude and fortitude to feel compassion for a people so hungry for a Savior, they are willing to ignore their own hunger; even to the point of possible collapse during their journey home.  As only a parent would know, Jesus recognizes their state and wants to feed them.

In Luke 15:20 we see this word compassion used again in yet another familiar story, the Prodigals Son:

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”  

The story did not say that his Father saw him and waited for him to come to him, it said that he ran to him and threw his arms around him.  That’s not just a feeling, that’s a passion.  That’s a loving parent who truly deeply cares for the well-being of His son.

We again see this property shown in possibly its purest form when Jesus actually weeps for His friend Lazarus who has recently died.  John 11:33-36:

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.  “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.  Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

This English word compassion comes from the Greek word Splagchnizomai (Strong’s 4697) and the definition is “to be moved as to one’s bowels, hence to moved with compassion”.  OK.  I’ll say it.  Gross.  I know your saying, wow, this Greek thing is really helpful :)  Fact is that the Strong’s definition goes on to explain that “the bowels were regarded as the seat of the more violent passions, such as anger and love; but by the Hebrews as the seat of the tenderer affections, esp. kindness, benevolence, compassion; hence our heart”.

So, if we put this in our bowl and stir it all together we see a compassion that is a very deeply felt.  This is not just a feeling but a passionate reaction to the physical condition of His people, to the sheep of His flock.  Like our Father in heaven, like a loving parent, Jesus looks to us in a way only a parent can.  As when our own children are running out the door without a coat or when we send our kids off to school, we love them deeply enough to put that coat on them or to give them their bag lunch.

The Psalmist says it well, when he says,

“For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” (Psalms 36:9 NIV84)

I am personally comforted by all this, as I want to follow a Savior who I know cares about me; who feels deeply for me.  I may not know what’s around the corner in life, but this I know.  That I am following a loving Savior, who cares not only for my soul, but also for my sanity.  A parent who loves me and cares for me deeply.  A friend who weeps for me.  I am in good hands.  I am in His hands.

He loves me, He really Loves Me!