Month: November 2015

Compassion Is Never Fully Safe

The pictures taken by this photojournalist capturing children affected by war are haunting. At least I hope they’re haunting. For all the talks about safety (which I am for) and all the talks about proper rules and vetting (which I am for), it’s impossible to see these pictures and not wonder – what if that were my kids.


Compassion is an interesting thing. It has built in risk to it. At least the kind of compassion Jesus had in mind for His followers does. Think of the story of the Good Samaritan. How easy it is to frame that story in loving our neighbor across the street. While that may be a proper application of the story, that is not in fact the story. The story is of a man that’s been mugged, beaten, and left for dead. He’s not in a comfortable safe neighborhood. He’s on the streets. He’s on a road from Jericho to Jerusalem. A road that is often filled with robbers, as is evidenced by this man’s experience. Now comes the three – the priest, the levite, the Samaritan. Will they stop? Will they help? Will they care? This left for dead man is not their “safe” neighbor. They don’t know him. What’s his story? Maybe he deserved what happened to him. Maybe he’s a bad guy and this was his punishment. They know none of that. All they know is that before them is a human suffering. Will they help? Only one does. The most unlikely.

Jesus knew what it meant to embrace compassion that carries risk. After all, the end result of His amazing love and care for those around Him was some crucified him and others abandoned Him. He gave all He had to help and in return He was nailed to the cross. And while that happened, He prayed “Father forgive them.” That ultimately is the power of the gospel, is it not? That ultimately is what draws us to surrender to Him, is it not? That’s the amazing love of God, is it not?

The uniqueness of the Christian message is that we love our enemies, not just our friends, because at the center of our faith is a Savior that laid down His life for those that would be deemed terrorists against God’s kingdom (and if we doubt that, we don’t understand sin and rebellion as God describes it).

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

At the center of Christ-like compassion is not safety, but love.