A Life of Kindness and Compassion

sharing-ice-cream-kids_fSome people are incredibly kind and compassionate in the way they consistently treat others; however, due to the surface similarity of the two, the depth of difference between kindness and compassion can be overlooked.

While kindness is a spirit of benevolence that reflects our concern for others and the friendly and generous ways we treat people, compassion, is the spirit of mercy that motivated the Good Samaritan. He was moved to lay aside hatred and to cross social barriers to help the badly-beaten man who had been left for dead.

You can be kind without being compassionate, but, I don’t think you can be seen as compassionate without also being kind.  In Ephesians, Paul instructs the believer to practice both: You must put away all bitterness, anger, wrath, quarreling, and slanderous talk—indeed all malice.  Instead, be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you (4:31-32).

Acts of kindness and compassion, should be more than a theoretical discussion over a cup of coffee; these fruits of the Spirit are worthy of more than just lip service.

How can you begin to live a life of kindness and compassion?  I suggest you place a bookmark at Philippians 2:3-4, and use it as a reference point.  Read it frequently and follow its principles faithfully.  To get started ask yourself some questions from this verse:

  • What is it that motivates me?
  • Am I known more for selfish ambition or humility?
  • If I treated myself the way I treat others, would I be pleased with my actions?
  • Am I too self-consumed to show concern for the plight of others?

I share the words that follow, as a prayer for today and as a conclusion to this discussion:

Lord, help me to love with both words and deeds,

To reach out to others and meet their needs;

Lord, burden my heart for those lost in sin,

With mercy and love that flows from within. ~Fitzhugh

My Pinky Finger or My Whole Hand?

flowerWhen you think of the stories of the Bible, which one pops into your mind?  Is it Noah and the ark, or Jonah and the big fish?  One of the more familiar stories is the account of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10).

To help you remember this story, let me remind you of the main characters.  It involved a thief who beat a man and the reactions of a priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan.  Each of these people pondered a question.  The question asked by the priest and the Levite was: “What will happen to me, if I stop and help this man?”  The Samaritan asked the question from a different perspective: “What will happen to this man, if I don’t stop and help him?”

Both the priest and the Levite barely noticed the injured man, but the Samaritan was eager to help bear his burdens.  Of the three, it seems that the Samaritan was better acquainted with the words of Solomon:

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts.  For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.  Also, if two lie down together, they can keep warm; but how can one person alone keep warm?  And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).”

I’ve wondered how much this story influenced the thinking of William Penn, who said: “I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.”

Some of the simplest acts of kindness, like lending a helping hand, are the most noble.  The following quotes focus on this kind of ministry:

  • Martin Luther King Jr: “Life’s most urgent questions is: What are you doing for others?”
  • Booker T. Washington: “Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.”
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”

God calls us to try to see each other through, not to try to see through each other.  We do this best when we labor together; lift each other up; and, support one another.

The Good Samaritan: Pay Day Some Day

Good SamaritanWhile I was doing a little reading last night, I found my way to Proverbs 19:17: “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lordand he will repay him for his deed (ESV).”  The Message provides this rendering of that verse:  “Mercy to the needy is a loan to God,and God pays back those loans in full.”

After reading this verse, a couple of questions came to my mind:

  • If God repays those who are generous to the poor, how does he reward those who are miserly?
  • Is this verse to be interpreted in just a physical sense or is their also a spiritual significance as in the poverty of the nonbeliever?

My musing led me to think about how this verse could be applied to the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10.  In this story a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho was robbed and left badly beaten.  This man was seen by three different individuals:

  • The thieves saw him and said:  “What’s yours is ours, so we’ll just take it.”
  • The priest saw him and said:  “What’s mine is mine, and I won’t share it.”
  • The Samaritan said:  “What’s mine is God’s, so I’ll bless you with it.”

Which of these three individuals embraced the principle of Proverbs 19:17? Which one of the them showed mercy, exhibited kindness, and manifested generosity?  How do you respond when you see someone in need?

Whoever is kind to the poor is lending to the Lord
    the benefit of his gift will return to him in abundance.

Proverbs 19:17 (ISV).

Are You A Stooper Downer?

helpinghandWhat do you do when you see someone struggling because the circumstances of their life are almost unbearable? Do you help bear their burdens?

One of the clear precepts of Paul on this subject is found in Galatians 6:1-3: “Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.” ~The Message

I hope this Scripture challenges you to make today the day that you will be the Good Samaritan to the hapless and helpless, and to those who need a helping hand. Stoop down and reach out to them and share their burdens. Bolster their courage, lighten their load, strengthen them in their struggle, and share the love of Christ with them.

Seeing and not doing is not sharing. Observing and ministering is embracing the vision of Christ: “When Jesus saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few; therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

Read the verses above one more time and listen intently and carefully to what you hear. Is it a whisper or a shout? To me, it sounds like Jesus is saying, “I need more people to labor in the harvest—more people who are willing to stoop down, reach out, and lighten the heavy load of their friends, neighbors, and complete strangers.”

Don’t deny it. Don’t turn a deaf ear to it. I know you can hear it. Jesus is saying: “I need you!”

Surface Similarities With A Depth of Difference

If you are like me, you may know a little about Jane Goodall and the research she did with chimpanzees.  Goodall and other scientists have written about similarities between the DNA of chimps and humans with a genetic commonality as high as 94 to 98%.

This surface similarity doesn’t tell the whole story.  According to an article in the Harvard Gazette, there is a depth of difference:  Among the 3 billion base pairs in the DNA  of both humans and chimpanzees, researchers found differences in 40 million sites.  It is in those sites where the differences between the two species lie.

An article in Scientific American reported that the 2% difference between the genetic composition of a chimp and a human represents at least 15 million changes in our genome . . .

Most of us spend little or no time studying the differences between the genomes of chimp and human.  We do, however, have a lifetime of experience in the perplexing way we as humans interact with each other.

Some people are incredibly kind and compassionate in the way they consistently treat others.  There is a surface similarity in the words kindness and compassion.  In fact, they are so similar; we often fail to note the depth of difference.

When we think of kindness, the qualities that should come to mind are the friendly and generous ways we treat people.   This is a spirit of benevolence that reflects our concern for others.

Compassion on the other hand is the spirit of mercy.  This is the seed that blossomed in the life of the Good Samaritan and moved him to help the badly-beaten man who was in need.

I believe it is possible for us to be kind without being compassionate; however, I don’t think a person can be compassionate without also being kind.  It doesn’t take much thought to know that Jesus calls us to be both.

Note:  The information about chimps and humans is excerpted from A Rat IS A PIG IS A DOG IS A BOY.  This book examines the agenda of the animal rights movement and contrasts it with proponents of animal welfare.