In telling the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus says, “But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion” (Luke 10:33). The Greek word translated as “compassion” here denotes being overcome with raw emotion that exhibits itself as physical discomfort. But many of us put up blinders to keep from coming across things that would punch us in the gut. Or we scurry on to something more pleasant when we accidentally come across things that hurt. But tuning in to the heart of God involves sitting for an extended period of time with one thing or one person in need. It involves submitting to discomfort and growing not just in sympathy, which cares from a distance, but empathy, which feels and relates from within our personal experience of pain.
I experienced that gut-wrenching feeling the first time I visited the Manila dump community in the Philippines. That day, I walked alongside Andrew, an eighteen-year-old who for two years had been serving in the community of some seven thousand garbage dump residents who made their living from collecting and selling scraps. Methane gas hovered in a cloud over one-room shacks built from corrugated metal, sheets of thick plastic, and plywood salvaged from the dump. I found it difficult to stomach that people actually lived in those makeshift structures in this putrid air and swam in the toxic water of the polluted river. As I got brave, put on my boots, and hiked the heaps of smoldering refuse with Andrew, a wailing woman approached us. In her hand, she carried a trash bag that contained the remains of her infant baby who had recently died. Without the money to give the baby a decent burial, she approached Andrew, desperate for help.
What a graphic picture of our world, even if it’s not the world we know on an everyday, personal level. It can be easy to ignore those in need when we see them from the safety and insulation of our own bubble, and easier still to ignore them when we don’t see them at all. But the need is real. In a rapidly growing urban world, which is increasingly unfriendly, we need to mobilize all who believe in Christ in every country of the globe to bring the good news to desperate people. In order to mobilize, we believers in Jesus must first feel the urgency of the task. And in order to feel the urgency of the task, we must simply be willing to feel. Will we say yes?
*Adapted excerpt from chapter 2 of The Yes Effect © 2017. Moody Publishers. All rights reserved.