A Heart of Compassion
If you pay close attention to the world around you, if you really open your eyes and look closely at the life of those who surround you, you will undoubtedly start noticing how much brokenness and suffering there is in our world. We tend to focus on our problems, and there is nothing wrong with that. Everybody knows that when you are trying to solve something, you need to give it your undivided attention.
However, self-centeredness can affect us in such a way that our hearts become as hard as a rock. In Jesus’s day, many people had lost sympathy, pity, and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. They lacked compassion.
Many of the people Jesus taught were bound by strict laws that prescribed the correct ways to worship God. They presumed holiness and followed a certain hierarchy where the religious leaders, scribes, and Pharisees headed the list, and Gentiles and sinners sank to the bottom. They focused so much on what they could not do that they completely lost track of what they were supposed to do–love their neighbor as they loved themselves.
When Jesus heals the woman who had been bound by illness for 18 years, his actions suggest that the Pharisees did not have a monopoly on holiness (or healing), and that in fact, a greater form of worship than theirs is to serve God with a pure heart and restore those who struggle with sickness and disease. Jesus shows that recognizing and reaching out in love to those who are marginalized honors God more than being bound to a prescribed mode of worship. Love is a higher law.
Jesus’s call to repentance in this chapter is not a call to assume guilt or anxious rule-keeping, but rather it is an acknowledgment that all of us are in need of God’s loving grace and kindness. Jesus invites us to turn away from self-centeredness and strive to honor God and uplift others around us. When we are unhindered by guilt and selfishness, we are free to carry out acts of mercy and compassion that reveal the heart of God and the miraculous, deep peace and joy of God’s kingdom.
Will you turn away from selfishness and put others first? Will you, with a servant’s heart, lead others to crave God’s peace, hope, and love?
God, give us a heart like yours. Fill us with mercy and compassion for each other.
Ask God to give you compassion for those who are often ostracized.
Father, cause me to see those who need your love. Let me commit to being kind and compassionate even when my love for others is rejected.
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