In many ways, Sadhu Sunder Singh could be called the Apostle Paul of India. He violently persecuted Christians before his conversion. After he encountered the living Lord Jesus Christ, he became one of India’s greatest Christian missionaries.
Christ-like Compassion In Action
On one occasion, Sundar Singh and a companion were traveling through a pass high in the Himalayan Mountains. At one point. they came across a body lying in the snow. Sundar Singh wanted to stay and help the unfortunate man, but his companion refused, saying, “We shall lose our lives if we burden ourselves with him.”
But Sundar Singh would not think of leaving the man to die in the ice and snow. As his companion bade him farewell, Sundar Singh lifted the poor traveler onto his back. With great exertion on his part, he bore the man onward, but gradually the heat from Sundar Singh’s body began to warm up the frozen man, and he revived.
Soon both were walking together side by side. Catching up with his former companion, they found him dead – frozen by the cold.
In a profound way, this act of sacrificial love captures the essence of God’s love shown to us in Jesus Christ. It also reveals to us why Sadhu Singh was used in such a powerful way by the Lord in spreading the Christian Gospel in India.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
There is probably no parable of Jesus’ that is as well-known and appreciated by people around the world than the Parable of the Good Samaritan. I believe it reveals the deep parts of God’s heart and it connects with our deep needs as human beings.
In the story, we see a Samaritan traveler pouring out his care on a wounded Jewish man. In Jesus’ time, the Samaritan was a rejected outsider in Jewish society. In today’s world, he would be like a Christian in a predominantly Egyptian Muslim village or a Palestinian in a predominantly Jewish town.
In the story, the robbers came to the man – stripped him and beat him up – and went away. Both the priest and the Levite came and saw the man , but instead of helping, they passed on the other side of the road.
It is always easier to pass by on the other side of the road. This was especially true of the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. It was especially dangerous. Robbers often lurked behind the big rocks along the roadway. The priest and Levite could have easily thought that the robbers could still be around, waiting for their next victim. It is always easier to pass by on the other side of the road.
In our story, a Samaritan came, but he responded with a compassionate heart and costly help. The Samaritan could of rationalized his non-help in the same way as the priest and Levite. He even had more reason to not help. He brought the wounded Jew into the Jewish town of Jericho. This would be the equivalent of an Indian in 1815, taking a partially-scalped cowboy into Dodge City, and renting a room above the saloon. This took a lot of guts.
Jesus was teaching the scribe, who had asked the question “Who is my neighbor?”, that our neighbor is anyone who is in need that we can help, regardless of how different they are from us.
The Samaritan had poured wine and oil on the wounds of the hurt man to promote healing. Both oil and wine were used in the worship of God at the Jerusalem Temple. It was poured out on the altar of God. I think Jesus was teaching here that as we reach out in purposeful compassion to meet human need, in His name, it is an act of worship. It is as if we are doing it to him (see the Parable of the Sheep and Goats in Mathew 25:31-46).
Unless we are engaged in purposeful compassion to meet the needs of people around us, our worship of God is incomplete. I don’t think it would be too harsh to say that if we regularly pass by on the other side of the road, in the face of human need, our religion is useless.
In James 1:27, we read these words, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
“Oh Lord, spare us from being useless in your service. Change our hearts to be compassionate like yours. Amen.”
QOTD: Why is it always easier to pass by on the other side of the road in the face of human need?