Why Should We Care
Why do we care when someone is hurting? Why do we care when a child goes hungry or a single mom can’t make ends meet or when people are mistreated? Why do we care?
The Bible has an answer for those questions and it comes in the first chapter of the first book. Genesis 1 says that people are unique in creation as being made in the image of God. This means that all people have dignity and should be treated with honor and love as a result—that we should work together to move God’s good creation forward. And though that sounds right, it isn’t what we see in this world.
We care because we are made in the image of God and so is everyone else. The problem is, we as people tend to put ourselves above others.
The Bible shows us that this quality of putting ourselves above others takes root and spreads to families, communities, and eventually whole societies. It creates injustice where the weaker people are overlooked at best or taken advantage of at worst. The Bible describes this as being rasha or “in the wrong.” Whether we do wrong or we leave what is right undone, we are rasha. We are in the wrong. That is why we care when we see people hurting or left out or uncared for. Because on some level we know we are coming in contact with something wrong.
So God’s response to this condition, the one we experience every day, is to call people to justice so that things can be put back to right. The Hebrew word for this is mishpat, which includes holding people accountable when they don’t treat others as image-bearers of God. But it is so much more. It also includes restorative justice that notices, listens, and cares for the vulnerable.
And Jesus shows us the way. In Mark 10, Jesus is walking through a crowd of people and the disciples are pushing him along. A blind man sitting by the road calls out to him, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” But the crowd tells the man to be quiet. They told him he was of lesser worth. The crowd was rasha and they forgot Jesus came to bring justice.
Mark 10:49-52 continues, “Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ So they called to the blind man, ‘Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.’ Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus asked him. The blind man said, ‘Rabbi, I want to see.’ ‘Go,’ said Jesus, ‘your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.”
Jesus begins by noticing someone who could have gone unnoticed. But instead he shows compassion. Compassion, noticing the needs of others, is the beginning of justice. Jesus then asks the man a simple question, “What do you want me to do for you?” I believe this is a question we should be very comfortable with and repeat often.
“What do you want me to do for you?”
These words place us in the position to truly listen to others and to truly serve others. I think there are times when we listen but we aren’t really listening. We have a tendency to live as though listening is nodding our heads and waiting for a break in the conversation to say what we had already decided we were going to say.
But Jesus shows us the kind of listening that serves and makes the other the priority. "What do you want me to do for you?" is a “let me sit with you for a moment” question. It’s an empathetic question. The invitation isn’t to listen for the break in the conversation so you can talk. The invitation isn’t to listen up to the point you feel discomfort and then to take a step back from that. The invitation is to listen with empathy.
Hebrews 13:3 says, “Remember the prisoner as though you are imprisoned with them; the mistreated as though you are the one suffering.”
I have a friend who works with women who have been through some of the most difficult circumstances you can imagine who are now trying to turn their lives around—looking for actual transformation. And she once said about her work, “Until I know a woman’s story, I don’t have anything to say to her. I can’t judge, I can’t condemn, I can’t help, I can’t support, I can’t encourage. Until I know her story, I don’t have anything to say to her.
Are we listening? Are we willing to? That is where empathy starts.
After the man says I want to see, Jesus heals the man as the crowd looked on. Jesus did justice in the midst of a crowd who was previously satisfied being in the wrong. And if you read the conclusion of this interaction with a sense of the original Greek language of the New Testament it goes like this:
“Jesus said Go your way, your faith has healed you. Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus in the way.”
Jesus noticed the needs of this man (compassion). He listens to him (empathy). And he cares enough to act (justice). These three things reminded the man of his dignity and gives him choice back.
And given the choice, having gotten near to Jesus, he followed him in the way!
This isn’t a convenient or easy way. It is a way that intentionally and courageously takes on the needs of others. It is advocating for people and changing systems that leave people out. It is “opening your mouth for those who can’t speak for themselves” (Proverbs 31:8). It is a way that will probably slow us down as it did Jesus that day. But this is what Jesus was getting at when he said love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). It isn’t a general indifference to people that says “if you don’t hurt me I won’t hurt you.” It is taking on the cause of the other and saying “because you hurt I will step into that hurt with you because you are an image-bearer of God. You are like me.” The invitation to love your neighbor as yourself is an invitation to notice the needs of others, to listen to others in a way that is open to understanding, and to care for them enough to act even it if costs you something. And we should care because this is who we are called and created to be.