Choosing Empathy Over Comfortability
“One Sabbath day Jesus went to eat dinner in the home of a leader of the Pharisees, and the people were watching him closely. There was a man there whose arms and legs were swollen. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in religious law, “Is it permitted in the law to heal people on the Sabbath day, or not?” When they refused to answer, Jesus touched the sick man and healed him and sent him away. Then he turned to them and said, “Which of you doesn’t work on the Sabbath? If your son or your cow falls into a pit, don’t you rush to get him out?” Again they could not answer.” (Luke 14:1-6, NLT)
People love routine. I’m no exception. I love the comfort of falling into a rhythm when it comes to my schedule or work. There’s something about the familiarity and confidence in knowing what is coming next and moving into it without hesitation.
But I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes, having a routine for the sake of having a routine is a dangerous habit to fall into. Tradition is the same way. Sure, there is something beautiful in having a
custom or a belief that’s passed down from generation to generation or person to person. But sometimes, our traditions and routines distract us from certain things that should have our full attention.
In the beginning verses of Luke 14, Jesus goes to eat with a group of Pharisees where He runs into a man with swollen arms and legs. By this point in His ministry, everyone knows that miracles tend to follow Jesus where He goes. But that’s not the only reason for verse one to note that everyone was watching Jesus very closely. Why? Because it was the Sabbath, and according to the law, no one was supposed to work on the Sabbath– that includes ministry work.
So Jesus, knowing full well that the Pharisees and the other people in His company are watching His every move very closely, turns to the group and asks them a very important question. “Is it permitted in the law to heal people on the Sabbath day, or not?”
You see, the Pharisees were watching Jesus to see if He would disobey the law. They were looking to see if He would heal this man, knowing full well what day it was. So when He touched the sick man, healed him, and sent him on his way, I can only imagine the looks on their faces ranged from disbelief to harsh judgment. In response, Jesus turned around and said, “Which of you doesn’t work on the Sabbath? If your son or your cow falls into a pit, don’t you rush to get him out?”
In other words, Jesus calls the Pharisees out for their self-righteous attitudes. They all knew the law, Jesus included, but Jesus was able to look past their Bible-time Christianese attitudes and be truthful. Because the reality is, even though the people around Him knew not to work on the Sabbath, there’s also no question that these same people would exert the energy and spend the time on tasks that would protect themselves and their interests.
The fact of that matter is this: a man was sick and probably in pain. Jesus didn’t use the rhythm of His routine as an excuse to not sympathize with this man and move to help him. Jesus didn’t use tradition as a facade for apathy or laziness. Instead, Jesus broke tradition. Jesus acknowledged the law, and respected it, but did not uphold it at the expense of someone else’s personal tragedy.
How many times are we like the Pharisees? How many times do we see someone in need and not reach out to show them Jesus’ love? How often do we ignore sympathy in the name of protecting our comfort zone? As I said, there is something beautiful and sacred about having traditions and order, but if the comfort and confidence that we gain from that is the very thing that keeps someone outside of the love of God, then we need to prioritize differently.
Jesus saw a rule– don’t work on the Sabbath– and weighed His options: keep to the formality of the rules and leave this man to His suffering, or put this man’s need in front of the validations of the Pharisees. In the end, I hope our hearts would be like Jesus. I hope that our hearts would move to comfort and empathize with those that need Jesus’ love, even if it breaks tradition. I hope that we wouldn’t look to protect our own comfortability or personal interests so fiercely that we forget to be more like Jesus.
There’s nothing wrong in liking your routine. There’s no shame in valuing tradition. Just keep in mind that if you want to be like Him, you will have to go against the grain. Sometimes, you’ll have to do the thing that’s less popular. Today, above all else, remember that the very nature of Jesus’ love is to always reach out to the one that needs Him and that no limit, law, or barrier could keep Him from touching those that need Him.
Go the extra mile. Choose empathy, even when it means you might have to stand alone.
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