The Unexpected Journey
Chapter 16

Being Compassionate

This experience is not new to most mature adults.  The situation: someone you deeply care about is on the verge of making a horrible decision. This decision is not merely a difference in opinions.  You have independent, verifiable information this is a genuinely horrible decision that will produce disastrous consequences to this person you care about and love.

The person knows your concern.  However, this person reacts to your concern as merely a matter of opinion.  Your opinion: “This is an undesirable move for you to make.”  The person’s opinion: “This is a wonderful move for me—or anyone else—to make.” 

To you, the facts say, “You should not make any irreversible decision that commits you to go further in this direction of undesirable consequences.”  To the person, there are no facts, only emotions.  To the person, “This is an incredible opportunity!  There are minimal consequences that could happen. However, these are only typical consequences that would be faced in any matter.  Irreversible decisions should be made promptly to allow me to advance in the direction of this wonderful opportunity.  Everyone should be so fortunate!”

To you, the facts scream, “A major mistake is about to happen!  You cannot let this happen to someone you care about!  You must do something!”  The person respectfully makes his or her view quite clear, “Get out of this matter, nosey! This is my life!  Your concern is unwanted and unappreciated!  Leave me alone about this decision!”

What do you do?  Do you ignore the situation?  Do you pretend the situation does not exist?  Do you allow “come what may” to happen?  Do you declare that the person asked for the consequences, so he or she is not to come crying to you when those consequences happen?  Do you risk the relationship by doing more?  When does the situation become about your conscience struggle rather than the person you care about?  Can you continue to love and care in spite of a decision that you find objectionable?


Thoughts to Consider

Loving someone else is complex.  It involves more than caring about them.  The complicated emotions that are a part of the concept of love carry as many responsibilities as rights.  Unfortunately, many focus on the rights and ignore the responsibilities.  There are moments when love experiences the “warm fuzzes.”  There are also moments when love respects and appreciates as the person loved is much less than wonderful.  To care when it is difficult to care is a quality that provides love strength and maturity.

In the opening scenario, consider the following:

1.     Grow in your knowledge of your own limitations.  You are not God!  No amount of knowledge, understanding, or insight will make you God!  You know and understand for your sake!  The objective of the type of knowledge that grants insight is for you to be, not to run others’ lives.

2.     Understand your own blind spots exist.  Because you do not see them does not mean (a) blind spots in your life do not exist or (b) others cannot see what you do not see.   Certainly, when others see your areas of ignorance (which you refuse to admit exist) that destroys the credibility of what you accurately know.

3.     Love and care deeply enough to love and care when the person you love makes huge mistakes.  That is what God does for us!  That is what grace is about!  Help is needed as much after a mistake as help is needed before the mistake.  Deep love helps after as well as before.

4.     Dare to be a friend when someone blows it!  It is easy to advise before the mistake is made. It is demanding to help when someone is struggling with the consequence of a bad decision.  For any person, it is hard to accept the fact that “I blew it!”

The issue is not was a mistake necessary.  (Is any mistake in a “perfect” situation ever necessary?)  The issue is, “What lessons did you learn as the result of your mistake?”  The person who learns no constructive lessons from a mistake will likely (given the opportunity) repeat the mistake.


The Grief of Watching the Avoidable Unfold

If watching someone we love and care about make a horrible, consequence-filled decision is hard for us, how much harder must such have been for Jesus?  We could be wrong, and watching is hard.  He was correct—he knew the results—and correctness must have made watching terrible!

Changing generations-old concepts and expectations is extremely difficult.  After a while both acquire a life of their own.  “The concepts simply could not be incorrect—they are unquestionable.  The expectations have to be right—if they were incorrect, time would have corrected them.”  Thus, neither are to be questioned or changed.

For most of his ministry, Jesus attempted to change concepts and expectations through teaching.  He made many visits to synagogues (Matthew 4:23; 9:35; 13:54; Mark 1:22), made numerous appearances in the temple area (John 2:14-22; 7:14, 28; 8:2, 20), and had many one-on-one encounters (consider John 3:1-21).  Such were his teachings and his deeds, that he had to be explained—he was a common topic of conversation (see Matthew 16:13).  Though he performed numerous miracles, explained and illustrated through parables, and taught as one who had authority [not as the scribes] (see Matthew 7:28, 29), little changed in the Israelites’ concepts and expectations.

Toward the conclusion of his ministry, he expressed his grief in his warnings.  His teachings continued to be profound, and his warnings were equally profound.  His ability to confound the religious establishment was well received by the man-on-the-street, but nothing changed in basic concepts or fundamental expectations.  The miracle man would restore Israel to the status of a free and prominent nation, defeat her enemies, and supply all Israelites’ physical needs (see John 6:15).  Jesus would fulfill long-held expectations in accord with ancient concepts.


An Illustration

Close to the end of Jesus’ life and ministry, the event of Matthew 23 occurred.  Jesus’ declaration contained warnings, an analysis of religious leadership’s problems, and an expression of personal grief.  It did not occur in the spirit of, “I told you so!  You ignored me, so now you will get what is coming to you!”  It came from someone who cared deeply.  What would happen was unnecessary.  He tried so hard to prevent the unnecessary.  He cared, he tried, and he failed.  God’s purposes still would be achieved, but the Israelites’ tragedy was not averted.  In spite of his best efforts, Israel would experience the unnecessary.

The warning (Matthew 23:1-12): Listen to the scribes and Pharisees, but do not adopt their actions/lifestyle.  Listen, because they are in the position of religious authority—they sit in Moses’ seat.  When they speak from scripture, they know what they are talking about.  However, they make very poor application of what they accurately know to the way they live their lives.  Their actions will mislead you.  They are more interested in impressing people than they are in adopting God’s ways in their behavior. 

Jesus said, “Let me give you specific examples.”

1.     They bind difficult demands on the people, but do nothing to give them relief found in the guidance of hope.  The end result is that following God’s ways are impossible.  Learning God’s Law becomes a matter of despair instead of a matter of direction.  They manage to excuse themselves while holding the people responsible.  They are of no encouragement! 

2.     They accepted the invention of phylacteries—small boxes containing up to four scriptures (Exodus 13:1-10; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:13-21) attached to the forehead and left hand by means of leather straps at the time of morning prayers in the home or synagogues.  They make the phylacteries large to attract people’s attention.  By Jewish standards, phylacteries were of a late origin and questionable evolution.  Phylacteries seemed to be an expression of piety that allowed those who wore them to keep God’s word/commands close to the heart.  The scribes and Pharisees made their phylacteries large to capture people’s attention. 

3.     They made the tassels on their clothes long (thus more noticeable to other people). Numbers 15:38-41 instructed all Israelites in all generations to wear blue tassels as a personal reminder of the Lord’s commandments, the importance of obedience, and to promote personal holiness.  (Jesus wore tassels or fringes on the hem of his clothing —Matthew 9:20; 14:36) 

4.     They sat in seats of honor at banquets and in synagogues.

5.     They loved to be called by titles in public.  (Jesus associated servitude with humility.)

The results of misguided spiritual leadership:

1.     Jesus’ use of the word Woe was a combination of “declaring judgment” and “sorrow.”  The scribes and Pharisees were responsible for their emphasis, but Jesus felt sorrow for them.  They were actors who only pretended to be righteous.

2.     Their pretense prevented people from seeing God’s true emphasis on what it meant to be righteous.  As a result, they prevented people from entering God’s kingdom.

3.     They worked hard to convert people to Judaism, but their converts were spiritually worse off.  Why were converts spiritually worse off?  The scribes and Pharisees’ incorrectly presented God’s emphasis in their teachings.

4.     The scribes and Pharisees taught meaningless religious distinctions that declared deception could have a godly focus.

5.     The scribes and Pharisees stressed minor spiritual acts while evading major spiritual responsibilities.

6.     The scribes and Pharisees stressed the appearance of purity while sanctioning inner corruption. 

7.     The scribes and Pharisees honored past righteous people, but they had the same attitudes of their forefathers who opposed and persecuted the righteous.

It is urgent to see that the scribes and Pharisees were very religious while, at the same time, they failed to understand or devote themselves to God’s emphasis in being righteous people.


Jesus’ Lament:

Jesus knew that terrible things would happen to Jerusalem.  From the reign of King David, Jerusalem was the political center of Israel (Judah).  From the reign of King Solomon, Jerusalem was also the spiritual center of Israel (Judah).  Jesus understood Judaism (as it was known in his lifetime) was unnecessarily on the verge of collapse. 

God had called this nation to return to His righteousness many times.  God issued is His latest call through Jesus.  Jesus said this was God’s last call for the nation of Israel to return to God’s emphasis. 

Jesus used an agricultural image to express his grief for what he knew would happen.  The image he used is amazing!  It is nothing but uncanny how a mother hen can sense danger to her chicks!  How she can sense the circling hawk overhead almost defies imagination.  It is not an image of mild neglect, but of super vigilance. With clucks of warning, all her chicks run to her. The mother hen squats down, spreads her wings to provide a quick access to a safe haven for her chicks, and ruffles her feathers to appear bigger than she is to the hawk.  The hawk fears attacking such a big bird, the chicks are safe, and the hen is unharmed. 

Please note that the chicks had to run to the hen.  That meant the chicks had to correctly interpret the hen’s clucks, believe a danger they did not “see” existed, and trust that the hen could protect them.  Nothing good could happen if the chicks did not do those three things.  The chicks had to appropriately respond regardless of how concerned the hen was.  If they did not run to her safety, one or several of them would be the hawk’s next meal.

Jesus was the hen.  The people of Israel were the chicks.  Israel did not see the danger Jesus saw, and they did not run to him for protection.  The result: they would be desolate.  Jerusalem would come to its end because the people of Israel did not know who Jesus was.


Your Help Is Needed

The probability of you encountering someone whose life is on an unexpected journey is very high.  Almost daily we encounter people who are forced to take directions in their lives they never, never anticipated.  It can be a hostile encounter, a polite evasion, a determined ignoring, or a helpful opportunity.  Consider the following as a challenge toward helpful opportunities. 

  1. Please know I am real.  I have the same emotions and feelings you have.  Respond to me as a person.  If you are curious, ask—but please do not pretend.  I enjoy being real, but pretending frustrates and irritates me.

  1. Recognize that I likely have more bad (challenging) days than you do.  It is literally true that I never know what unexpected situation I will have to cope with when I face a new day.  When that makes me grumpy, I apologize.

  1. Even when I make a concerted effort, I likely talk too much about myself.  You observe my limitations.  I live with those limitations 24 hours every day.  That tends to make me more than a little self-centered.

  1. It is common for me to be self-conscious.  My body and I are not synchronized.  There are moments when my body simply embarrasses me by doing wrong things at the wrong times—like choking, dropping something, or losing my balance.  I live in the fear that such embarrassing moments will occur.  Believe me, such moments are more embarrassing for me than they are for you.  Laugh, and invite me to laugh with you.  Be sure it is a laughing with and not a laughing at.

  2. I constantly fight my desire to withdraw.  The desire to withdraw when combined with the yearning to be a part is a vicious internal force.  Please do not give me reason to reinforce  my desire to withdraw.

To those who wish to receive help:

1.     Learn to talk about things other than yourself.  We are not the world’s only citizens, and not the only difficulty in the world.

2.     If you wish to be treated as real, be real.

3.     When we do something embarrassing, provide others a sense of direction so they will know how we want them to deal with the situation.

4.     Never forget to fight our desire to withdraw. 

5.     Know there always will be people who are not comfortable with your unexpected journey.  No one is friends with everyone!

A challenge: Remember, when we encourage someone on an unexpected journey, we never know when we may be helping ourselves!  An unexpected journey may await anyone!

Copyright 2010

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