Imagine yourself at a stop light preparing to turn left on a busy intersection. You come to observe a homeless person standing to your right with a cardboard sign, saying “anything helps, God bless”. As your eyes quickly glance at the scene, you imagine how this older looking gentlemen might have had a hard life which led him to the streets. But as the red stop light keeps you waiting, you realize upon a further observation that his unshaven beard and dirty face mask the truth about him. You realize that he is much younger than you thought, he is sipping a smoothy from Robeks and is wearing brand new Nikes.
Your pity morphs into disgust. You tell yourself that you will never ever give him money; and how could you give money to a lazy person like that who abuses the system. “For goodness sakes there are so many opportunities here in America not to end up there” – you think to yourself. As the light turns green, you make your left turn somewhat satisfied about yourself for thinking this way.
But, where is your compassion? Is it not buried under self-righteousness? Do we elevate ourselves over other people just because we do what is right? When someone messes up do we pass judgement or show compassion?
“When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were distressed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Mt. 9:36). Jesus had a heart that was sensitive to the needs of people. Jesus, out of all people, knew what was in peoples hearts and how many bad things they have done and will do. Yet, part of his ministry was to heal the sick and feed the hungry.
But not only that, Jesus has shown compassion to us all, even in our own time. We often forget what Jesus has taken us out. You may not have been on the street asking for money, but you were a rebel against the Holy King of the universe. You deserve judgment and condemnation. The road you travelled did not lead you to God but to your own self. Yet, Jesus had compassion over you, he jumped into the dirty water of sin to save you. He took hold of you stubborn heart, cleansed it and trains it to do what is right.
What if you were that bum on the street, who was “abusing the system” and the privileges of this country, who didn’t care about anything but yourself and your own needs, who used lying and cheating to get by in life. But now imagine that Jesus pours compassion over you by opening your eyes through another Christian who doesn’t pass judgment on you but loves you enough to help you get out of the state you are in.
We are quick to judge because we forget who we were and how we got to where we are. When we see ourselves clearly and what we truly deserve, we have a different attitude towards people; even to those who deserve to be punished. It still may not be wise to give money to homeless people on the street, but we should have an open heart towards them.
Self-righteousness says I am not going to help you because you gone yourself into this mess. Compassion says I know that you deserve punishment but I want to help you because I was there too, and someone has loved me enough to help me.
As you are making that left turn on the stop light of you life, don’t judge people for their wrong, but have compassion over them. Tell them the truth in love, be ready to stand next to them. Open your heart to people, no matter how they got there, realizing that you were there as well and someone has taken your from the path of death you were on.