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COMPELLED TO BE COMPASSIONATE

 

Sometimes the needs of the poor, the refugees, those afflicted by floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, wars, famine and the like seem enormously overwhelming in scope and severity. The needs often appear so great that we may feel rather helpless in the face of them. And the needs seem to be increasing. We are told that there are now six billion people crowding the earth and more on the way. Mother Earth, the environmentalists tell us, is already taxed to provide enough food, enough trees for shelter, enough clean fresh water, enough oil and coal to make electricity and so on. An Internet service, Religion Today, reports that some 6 million children die each year mostly due to hunger-related causes. Worldwide, some 32,000 children under five die daily for lack of food. Considering all these needs, what are Christians to do?

In Matthew 25 we find Christ telling us how we will finally be judged. Judgement, Jesus indicated, would center on how we meet the needs of hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, those without adequate clothes, those who were sick or imprisoned. Christ's word was, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Matthew 25:40).

The model of Christian compassion was and is Christ himself, the one who fed the hungry, healed the sick, accepted the rejected, offered comfort to those who had lost a loved one, blessed children, and provided the way out of darkness for those trapped in confusion and sin. Writer Robert C. Roberts puts our Christian mandate for compassion in these words: "When a person acknowledges that Jesus is the Lord, he no longer has any choice about how far to go in identifying himself with weak, suffering or sinful people. Because there is no person too lowly for his Lord, there is none too lowly for him either." We are compelled by the compassionate Christ to follow in his steps.


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