Song writer, lyricist and playwright Oscar Hammerstein II once wrote: “A bell’s not a bell ’til you ring it – A song’s not a song ’til you sing it – Love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay – Love isn’t love ’til you give it away!”
Philip Anderson tells of a visit to a children’s hospital in California where his sister worked as director of patient services. She gave him the full tour and along one hallway, the cry of a baby could be heard getting louder as they walked closer. Walking into the room, he saw the crying baby and his heart sank. This 11-month old child was covered from head to toe with horrible scratches, bruises and scars. Thinking this baby had been in a horrible accident, his heart broke even more when he was told that they were from parental abuse. Written in ink all over the child’s body were obscenities. The child’s feet were burned from cigarettes. Wondering how anyone could be so cruel to a baby much less someone’s own child, he watched his sister slowly lean over and very carefully and tenderly she picked up the crying child and held it close to her. Slowly the baby began to relax as the woman spoke lovingly to it and patted and rocked the child. Finally, in spite of wounds and hurts, the baby relaxed and stopped crying all together – all because of the compassion of his sister. Anderson would later tell his church that the baby is a living symbol of the choice we face in our mission as church: are we willing to compassionately reach out to others who have been beaten and abused by life and society? Will we pick them up and hold them close to our hearts in the name of our compassionate savior Jesus?
As we continue our series of messages today titled, Attitudes of Grace, we remember that our attitude is like a paintbrush of our faith that colors everything in a world that is living in colorless times. We are called be a living sacrifice everyday trusting in Christ for everything we need. We talked about the two cousins of commitment and perseverance and how gratitude calls us to live thankfully every day. Today we conclude our series by considering having an attitude of compassion.
The woman Jesus healed reminds us of the old adage that “life is hard”. Let’s just imagine this poor woman’s 12-year long plight with hemorrhaging. Her physical condition rendered her body weak and worn down. This ailment caused her financial ruin and she spent all she had to get well even though no Doctor was able to cure her. She lost her connection to her faith life as her condition dictated that she had to separate from the faith community. This probably meant that she separated from her family and friends as well. 12 years of isolation, illness, fear, pain, anger, frustration and constantly looking for hope. Then she hears about Jesus and that he was coming to her town. So, she goes, even though she knows she wasn’t allowed. She goes, blends in with the crowd and rationalizes that a touch of Jesus’ garments would heal her. She was that certain and that crazy – so she went, she touched and she left quickly…but not quickly enough because Jesus immediately felt his healing power go from him into someone and his compassionate heart wanted to know who it was.
After a few moments, the woman approached Jesus, fell at his feet in great fear and told him everything. I believe that, with tears in his eyes, Jesus smiled calling this woman, daughter, Jesus told her that her faith had healed her and he invited her to go home a new person!
So, how do we develop and live into a lifestyle and attitude of compassion? Jesus is our perfect example as he first revealed that 1) compassion is gracious. Jesus never rebuked the woman for her actions. He didn’t tell her to come back when it was more convenient. He could have. He was on his way to heal a sick child. Jesus doesn’t remind the woman that she was unclean. In fact, he never saw her that way at all. He graciously asks for her to come back and when she does, he tells her that her faith was the key to her healing!
2) Compassion is self-giving. Jesus came for the least, the last and the lost. He came to heal the sick, save the lost and restore the broken. He came to us! He is the prime example of compassion in action. Have you ever noticed what doing something for others does to us? Someone once wrote that the 10 rules for getting rid of the blues is to, number 1, go out and do something for someone in need, then repeat it 9 more times! When we are compassionate, we become the hands, heart and feet of Christ to those who are in need of help, support and hope! How many times have we done something for someone else and felt we were the ones who were the most blessed?
3: Compassion leads to communion. We are never more like Jesus than when we are compassionate with others. Whether deserving or undeserving. Our calling as disciples of Jesus is to love God and love others – equally every time. When we do, we discover the true blessing of communion. A couple were walking in the park one Saturday morning when a little boy came running from the other side of a tree and ran right into the man. He asked, “Dad, where’s Amy?” Then he looked up and discovered the man wasn’t his father. “Oops, I thought you were my dad, I’m sorry!” “It’s OK, everyone makes mistakes!” they said. And the boy skipped away. Only then did the couple realize the physical characteristics of Downs Syndrome in the child. After about 10 steps, the little boy turned around and came back to the couple saying, “My name is Billy. You were both very nice to me. Can I give you a hug?” As he turned to walk away, Billy said, “I just want you to know that you are now my friends and I’m going to be praying for you. I have to go now. Bye-Bye!”
Sometimes God uses the Billy’s of the world to remind us what genuine compassion is all about. It always leads us into communion with others, with ourselves and, most of all, with the Lord. Never underestimate the incredible attitude of grace called compassion! Or the attitudes of sacrifice, trust, commitment, perseverance and gratitude. Together they graciously paint, with beautiful colors, a world that needs grace every day!
Love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay – Love isn’t love ’til you give it away!