A Lord of Compassion

 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25:35-40

We serve a Lord of compassion. Jesus was compassionate to everyone he met, except for the people who were being unkind or judgmental of others. Those he challenged to do better. We are expected to treat others as we would be treated, and to show compassion to those in greater need than our own, be it physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. What we do for those, we do unto the Lord.

Compassion is defined as: sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. synonyms: sympathy, care, concern, sensitivity, warmth, love, tenderness, leniency, tolerance, kindness, humanity, charity.

Last week I went to Little Caesar’s to pick up a cheese pizza for the kids playing in the pool at my house. A Hot ‘N Ready cheese pizza is only $5.41 with tax. It was Friday night at almost 8:00 so the place was packed. If you don’t know, Little Caesar’s is just a small lobby with a big kitchen. Everything is to go. It’s a working class joint.

The kids working were slammed and stressed. The 20 people packed in the lobby were people just getting off a hard day of work at places like Goodwill, Walmart, Auto Bell. I could tell everyone was tired and impatient. Most were looking at their phones and noticeably irritable. They all wanted to get their inexpensive pizzas and get home to their families to enjoy their Friday night after a grueling work week.

I just stood there in the crowd smiling at people and trying to make light conversation. I had been there at least 10 minutes and there were several people who had ordered ahead of me. Some were pleasant to me, some were not.

Then, in walked a very frail looking man, I’d say in his 60s, who made his way to the counter and asked for the manager. He quietly and humbly interrupted the busy manager to ask if there was any way he could get a discount on a pizza because he and his wife were very hungry and all they had was some change.

The manager politely said he was too busy at the moment serving the customers who were waiting, but that he would see what he could do once the rush died down.

The man began to ask individuals in the lobby if they could spare a couple dollars. He was shaky and very thin and he kept pointing to his wife standing outside. Every person turned him away, and every person tried to put their head down and did their best to look busy on their phone and waved him off. Some at least looked at him to tell him “No.”

He finally got to me. I knew it was coming, and I had been thinking of what I would do. Was this man an addict? Was that really his wife? I was ashamed that I even let those questions run through my head. I thought, what WOULD Jesus do if he were here? It doesn’t matter what this man’s story really is. He is in need, and I have another $5.50 in my pocket right now. Money’s tight, but I have more than this man has, and I am called to share when I am able. Plus, there is an audience watching to see what I do.

“Excuse me ma’am, do you have just a couple dollars to help me and my wife get a pizza? We are so hungry and the manager said he’d work a discount if I wait. That’s my wife right out there. We just need a meal.”

I looked him in the eye. Everyone in the lobby was watching me. This was my chance to be the hands and feet of Jesus. “Sir,” I said, “I just happen to have $5.50 in my pocket and the pizza is $5.41. I would be honored to help you get a pizza.”

Everyone watched as I handed him the money and he limped to get in line behind two others who were about to order. He finally ordered and got the 9 cents back. He walked to me and reached in his pocket to get an assortment of pennies, dimes and nickels to put with the 9 cents of change. He handed it to me with tears in his eyes and said, “THANK YOU. I worked for 25 years driving a truck and had to have a knee surgery and it took all we had. I still can’t walk well and I cannot find a job that will take care of me and my wife. This pizza will be so good. God bless you for your kindness ma’am.”

I continued talking with him as we waited. My pizza came up next. He shook my hand again and thanked me. I said, “It is a pleasure sir, and God bless you.” I smiled and waved to everyone as I left. “Have a great night everyone!” All those irritable people waved and smiled at me as I walked out the door.

Perhaps that very small act of kindness had put everyone’s frustrating wait for pizza into perspective. Perhaps it spurred some of them on to be kinder to others that night. All I know is that God gave me an opportunity to be a light, and I am glad I took it.

I cried when I got to my car. I thanked God for the opportunity He had given me and I prayed for that man and his wife, the employees, and all the patrons I had encountered that night. I don’t know any of their stories, but I do know that God showed Himself in that lobby here in East Charlotte last Friday night. He is good, all the time, and He asks us to be an extension of His love to all we meet. Opportunities abound – we just have to be aware and willing!

Slow to Anger

“STOP THAT! STOP BEING SO BAD!” she said as she smacked her child’s hand and grabbed him, continuing to pull him through the store aisle. He had been trying to grab a box of cereal from the shelf, like ALL kids do!

I must have seen that 5 times in my short grocery trip. Not one time did she stop what she was doing, look him in the eye and explain to him how she expected him to behave.

What a contrast with another Mom whose little girl did the exact same thing. The little girl grabbed something off the shelf, and with great poise and patience, her Mom put the package back on the shelf and stopped her cart. She knelt down and looked in her child’s eyes and said, “I know it’s so exciting to see things you like and it is tempting to grab them! But, when we shop I need you to keep your hands to yourself and be a good girl. Mommy loves you!” She ended with a hug and then they continued on her way.

That little girl held her head up high. She had been very gently reprimanded and she knew how much her Mommy loved her. By contrast the little boy who had been smacked and dragged through the store continued to grab things and never behaved properly. He pointed his eyes toward the floor and walked with a posture of anger and defeat.

Thankfully our God is like that second Mom! He is slow to anger and quick to forgive. He loves us and carefully and lovingly corrects us. He is patient and makes sure we know how much he cares for us. Imagine what life would be like if He were like that first Mom!

He wants us to be slow to anger and take time to process our circumstances before we act. I used to be much more of a “reactor” than a patient processor. With some time, usually the issue becomes much more manageable and seems less dramatic.

GraceYes, I am still perfecting this skill. The better I get at it, the less reparations I have to make in my relationships and the less stress I have to manage within myself. It is fabulous!

Let us all remember the great patience and love our Heavenly Father has for each and every one of us despite our glaring imperfections! And, let us pass this same grace on to others.

“The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” Psalm 103:8 NIV

“For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.” Psalm 86:5 NASB

Listen More, Speak Less

I struggle with this one. I am doing better the older I get, but I sometimes have this drive to win my case or be right above listening, understanding, and being compassionate. It is something I have to consciously fight against. Even if I am not right, I sometimes fight until I can make my case seem plausible. I am ashamed to admit it.

We are meant to listen to one another and show love and compassion to one another, not to constantly criticize and judge one another.

It seems that these days a lot of “Christian” organizations use a lot of time and expense to “fight” against issues that really should not concern them. We are all free to have our own opinions and causes, but I don’t believe God wants us to use our time and resources to fight against things that are truly not our concern while also putting Him and his people in a bad light.

Our energy should be put toward showing love, peace, patience, kindness, self-control: the fruits of our beliefs. It is by showing these things that we change the world. We don’t win by judging and criticizing, we win by listening, loving and caring enough for others to want what we have.

Ear

Time and time again I see people and groups lashing out at other people and groups with whom they disagree. This takes so much energy! And it’s a waste. It’s a total veering off of the track set before us.

Billy Graham once said,“It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and our job to love.”

Obviously the groups I am referring to are extremists and do not represent Christ or his true followers. But, I think if we are all honest with ourselves, we may see that in some small way we all do a bit of this. We may pick fights or take the time to side with fights that really give more ground to the enemy than gain it for Christ. (The NC bathroom law situation and Target stores for instance.) We may do this on a larger scale, and/or with the ones closest to us.

The main goal in the life of a Christ-follower should be to show love and compassion to others – to ALL others, even those with opposing views – and to live a life of example. Spending time and money to picket an abortion clinic for instance is not showing the love of Christ. Those women have been through enough and what they need is a hug and to know that Jesus loves them as much as he loved them before, and that nothing can change that. Those women know what they have done. What would it look like if we showed God’s love by standing outside a clinic to give hugs and share information about support groups? What if we invited them to come to church with us the next Sunday? Perhaps this behavior would show them compassion and cause them to make a different choice in the future, or influence an onlooker to make another choice. Then they would know there would be someone to love them through their choice, whatever that may be.

What would that look like? I think you get the idea.

None of us knows exactly what another’s set of life circumstances is. Our job is to listen,  show love and compassion. Period. God doesn’t “need” us to put people in their place – he knows our hearts, and that job is His.

How about this quote from Dale Carnegie in his book How To Win Friends & Influence People: “Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.”

If we want to show people another way, we do that by example and with love – not by spouting hate and judgment.

And even better, I’ll close with a few scriptures straight from God’s Word:

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” Romans 2:1

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Matthew 7:1