In Joppa, a disciple by the name of Tabitha . . . was always doing good deeds and acts of mercy for the needy.
In the fourth century, John Chrysostom, a pastor in Antioch wrote, “Every day the church feeds 3000 people. Besides this, the church daily helps provide food and clothes for prisoners, the hospitalized, pilgrims, cripples . . .”
At the same time, in Rome, Jerome mentions a Christian woman, Fabiola. “She was the first person to found a hospital, into which she might gather sufferers out of the streets, and where she might nurse the unfortunate victims of sickness and want.”
All this distressed the Roman Emperor, Julian, who wanted to destroy the Christian faith. He, futilely, urged the pagan priests to try to copy the compassion of the Christians. “It is disgraceful,” he moaned, that Christians “support our poor in addition to their own.”
Julian accused Christians of showing excessive compassion, and we’ve been guilty ever since.
Benjamin Rush, in addition to founding our country’s first Bible society, was also the leader in showing compassionate care to the mentally ill. The official emblem of the American Psychiatric Association features his portrait in the center.
After seeing the carnage of the Battle of Solferino, with little attention paid to the wounded, Henry Dunant, a devout Christian, inspired the founding of both the International Red Cross and the creation of the Geneva Convention.
A British nurse, Cicely Saunders was appalled by the lack of care given in the hospital for the dying. She founded Hospice to provide compassionate care to the terminally ill.
Habitat for Humanity, Prison Fellowship – we find that Christians are continually finding ways to help the poor and needy.
Some (well-meaning) Christians believe the sole purpose of the Church is to preach the Gospel and save souls. But, if this is true, what do we make of Jesus? Yes, he came to open the path to heaven. Yet, on his way to cross, his feet kept following his heart – which invariably led him to the tear-stained faces of the poor, the sick, and the outcasts.
Amy Carmichael went to India as a missionary, and spent much of her time working to free children from temple prostitution. She was criticized by fellow-Christians for not focusing solely on saving souls.
Amy responded, “One cannot save and then pitchfork souls into heaven . . . Souls are more or less securely fastened to bodies . . . and as you cannot get the souls out and deal with them separately, you have to take them both together.”
Since we can’t pry a person’s soul away from their body without killing the patient in the process, we might as well love the whole darn thing.
(text copyright 2012 Marty Kaarre)