I’m all about putting principles into action, so I especially appreciate Kyle’s thoughts on what it might look like if, one day, we were to relegate the oxymoronic policy of forced compassion to the ash heap. I completely agree that we cannot wait around until the state abandons this mindset.
If I am right about compassion being a love response (and I am), I think it follows that people (both recipients and providers) will find it an extraordinarily attractive alternative to the ersatz version the state has been championing for so many years. There’s something moving about finding out someone actually cares about you; and cares enough to help.
The church should be leading the charge in restoring compassion to its proper place. But it has been letting the state eat its lunch. No . . . that doesn’t quite capture it. A large segment of the church has prepared the lunch, personally walked it to the state’s offices, set the table, and invited the government to feast. This is tragic. Not just in the sense that it ought to be otherwise. More in the sense that it makes one want to weep in frustration, or anger, or just heart-emptying sadness. Here’s why.
It is the church’s glory to care for the poor and the widow and the helpless. It’s not a burden. It’s not a chore. And it’s not something that can be satisfied by posting the 3-figure balance of the “deacon’s fund” on the back page of the church bulletin.
Jesus didn’t leave the church many mandates. It’s not like the New Testament is an ancient version of the Code of Federal Regulations, stuffed from cover to back with endless and mind-numbing directives on what he expects of us.
It’s so simple. Love God. Love your neighbors. How simple is that? Simple enough that when a lawyer thought to excuse himself from its simplicity by quibbling over the second command, Jesus slapped him down (lovingly, to be sure) with the Good Samaritan.
Being the Good Samaritan should be the church’s central organizing principle, not a peripheral program. We say we want to bear witness to God’s unmerited favor and teach people of his love. But then we outsource to the state (the state, of all things) the best, highest, and sweetest way to bring his love to others.
There are those who accuse me of favoring too much the life of the mind. There’s some truth to that – I get a thrill out of searching for and discovering principles that I can build into arguments, arguments I can arrange into structures, and structures that can order my affairs. But you can’t live life only in your mind. And so, sometimes, sometimes, I ache to see God’s love. To see it, in the light of day with my waking eyes, not just know of it. If I, already a Christian, long for this, how much more those who do not know of that love at all?
Compassion is what love looks like – gathering a fallen stranger into your arms and dressing his wounds while the dirt of the road soils your clothes. Not metaphorically – really. Compassion meets physical needs, and in meeting those physical needs reaches deep into that void that unknowingly craves the Creator’s love.
The church cheats the world to the extent its face, its heart, its pulse, becomes something other than compassion. And when it allows (or worse, encourages) the state to steal its glory, it bears witness that it has forgotten what it is. Small wonder so many people think the church frivolous and irrelevant.
We talk and sing of God’s love with no end. Our fellow Americans, however, are waiting to see it. So, naturally, we send them to the local welfare office to find it. What disgrace, what shame.