As one who has admittedly been boggled by the ethical teachings of Jesus, as I suspect most of us have, I still marvel at the irony evident when people in the public arena claim Jesus and then desperately struggle to justify a show of compassion, either politically or theologically. Seeing Christians feel the need to explain a need for compassion to other Christians is just too surreal in the most basic sense.
The arguments against compassion always boil down to the basic idea that compassion is too expensive, in terms of time, money, and emotion. As an addendum we might rationalize that compassion is simply wasted on many that we might try to help because they are simply hopeless cases, too lacking in intelligence, motivation, or moral upbringing. Without argument, compassion is not free; but what is the alternative, indifference and an implicit denial of Jesus?. The love of Christ was costly in terms of human suffering and self-sacrifice, but it was and is freely given, none the less.
It is relatively easy and certainly convenient to fall back on the all American virtues of self reliance and personal responsibility as a reason to do nothing. That often works in the back of our mind, but out in the real world where people suffer and obviously need our help to survive, mental exercises rarely silence the words and example of Jesus. I experience those pangs of guilt when confronted by a need for help, perhaps just like you.
As exemplified by our family relationships, love demands a great deal of patience and forbearance with those we love. Love continuously deals with its own perception of malfeasance on the part of the loved one. Love cannot exist along side a demand for perfect adherence to our standard of conduct. Unrestrained love will extend help to those who may not appreciate it or take proper advantage of the aid. Some will respond to love unlovingly; but, if that is a reason to forsake compassion, then love is a failure on the face of it and the message and example of Christ are likewise. His love was not predicated on man’s response; otherwise, He would never have suffered and died.
As professed Christ followers, each of us need a renewed vision of who Jesus really was. As the perfect example of God’s love, Jesus revealed God’s true nature and unleashed a force on humanity which should compel us to see compassion as essential in every setting, not just because Jesus taught it but also because there is no real alternative. As long as we insist on equivocating on the necessity to love as Jesus did, without restraint, we suffer from a kind of spiritual schizophrenia, vacillating between two opposite poles, one mirroring Jesus and another reflecting age old human assumptions, going all the way back to the Garden, which were the very things Jesus came to correct.