On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Yeshua. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
"You have answered correctly,” Yeshua replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Yeshua, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Yeshua said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Yeshua told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Oh, how easy it would be if we could always see when someone was laying beaten and bleeding by the side of the road. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. It would be easier, as well, if it were a stranger that we knew nothing about, thus have made no judgments. But most often, it is the person smiling at us, talking, walking and laboring at our shoulder that is the one pumping out the last of their life blood - a survivor of a brutal attack of life. Bearing some unseen burden, they keep it inside, trying to nurse their wounds themselves, keeping up the appearance of strength. It takes a heart of compassion to watch and listen for the cues that may suggest they are hurting and in need. Compassion listens attentively, it is true, and looks for opportunities to apply the first aid of affirmation, prayer and friendship.
There are other times when it is our dearest friends, those closest to us, who need compassion the most. Floundering in a confusing, perhaps desperate situation, they are grasping in vain at the cliff side as they slide down helplessly into the abyss. Relational quagmires, financial woes and difficult decisions with unknown outcomes are situations where compassion and mercy are most needed. In the midst of a storm it is difficult to hear the voice of the Master; compassion is the voices of those dear ones praying and speaking love and support. Compassion eagerly helps bear the burden of friends in need without complaint or delay.
Harder still, there are times when a fresh eye and ear are needed when mistakes have been made or sin creeps close, unbidden. Compassion, along with wisdom and discernment, comes alongside and grabs hold of the hand in need without fear or condemnation, coaxing back onto the safe path. Tender and calm, compassion navigates the path to repentance much easier with two - one to lead and love, and one to follow. Compassion is persevering, wise and gentle, never judgmental or harsh with criticism.
Compassion is the hand of love reaching out to our neighbor, brother, sister, friend...even a stranger. It is that same hand that we desperately want and need for ourselves. When we reach out in compassion to those that come into our lives, we live out the Torah of Messiah in spirit and in truth.
There is no greater command.
“The value of compassion cannot be over-emphasized. Anyone can criticize. It takes a true believer to be compassionate. No greater burden can be borne by an individual than to know no one cares or understands.”