Greetings to you! We are in the week of our Convention where we have been thinking about “Recognising the Times”.
We are reminded constantly by God’s word that the second coming of the Christ is closer than ever before and we must be ready to face him when he comes.
Meanwhile, we are to use aright the time that is left for us here on earth. We have also witnessed a couple of funerals recently reminding us of our own mortality. It is in this context that we need to understand the theme for this morning, “True Compassion is based on justice.”
We may wonder how compassion and justice can go together. Does not justice demand punishment? Then how can compassion be based on justice? However, when we delve deeply, we recognise that compassion can only arise when we have a sense of justice within us. We live in a world full of injustice. The gap between the rich and poor; the haves and have nots is huge.
Even when we look at it from a global perspective, we notice that the global North consumes the vast majority of food, electricity, lumber, etc. Statistics tell us that almost 2.8 billion people on this planet struggle to live on less than Rs. 150/- a day. God has created enough resources in the world for all to share, but we have become greedy as human beings and always want to have more than we have.
When Jesus saw that people were sick or demon possessed, he was moved with compassion because this was not the life that God had intended for them. Similarly, we too should be moved by those less fortunate than us, particularly, the poor and the needy because God will call us to account on the final day.
In the Bible reading from today from St. Luke’s gospel, Jesus tells us a story to drive home the point about how true compassion is based on justice. In the parable, there was a rich man who had everything he wanted. He was dressed in purple, the best possible attire of that time or the designer garments of yester- years. He also wore fine linen and he lived in luxury everyday wining and dining with not a care in the world. In contrast to the rich man, there was a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores and was sitting at his gate begging and longing to eat whatever left-overs were there from the rich man’s table. His sores were oozing that the dogs came and licked them. Something similar to many of the poor people who sit outside the church every Sunday. In this life, one lived a life of prosperity and other lived a life of poverty and suffering.
In the second scene of the parable the beggar dies and angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. Death is not the end and so story continues. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. Lazarus goes from being a poor and lonely sufferer to be at the side of Abraham, meaning being with the saints. The rich man on the other side is in Hades where he is in torment. The rich man is suffering from judgement, whereas Lazarus is enjoying God’s blessings. The rich man is in great pain and suffering but with no relief.
The rich man appeals to Abraham to send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool his tongue, because he was in agony in the fire. Abraham tells him that it is impossible for Lazarus to come there because there was a great chasm between them. The roles have been reversed here.
The rich man now pleads with Abraham to send Lazarus to his family so that they would not end up in torment. Abraham tells them that they had the scriptures which was sufficient for them to believe. If they did not believe in the scriptures then there was no way that they would be convinced even if a person went back to them from the dead.
The challenge for us this morning is the same. Do we see ourselves as the rich man who had enough and more to spare? Do we see the people outside the church as the Lazarus’ of this world? If there is any sense of justice within us then we would indeed be moved with compassion and reach out to the poor outside the church. We can choose to be like the rich man and complain about their oozing wounds and avoid them like the plague thinking that we will be infected by them. A sense of justice should drive us to reach out to them in true compassion. May we as a church not shun the poor and the needy but reach out to them with God’s compassion.