What a Hurried Spirit Does to our Compassion

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Text: Luke 10:25-37

Jesus was busy, but never in a hurry.

A man once told me, “I wanted to figure out why I was so busy, but I never could find the time to do it.” I think we’ve all had that sentiment at one time or another.

It’s been said that Jesus was busy, but never in a hurry. Some may not even know that there is a difference, but a hurried spirit is a saboteur that siphons the compassion right out of our daily lives.

In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus told a story about a Jewish traveler who was mugged and left for dead on the side of the road. Two devoutly religious people looked directly at the man, yet hurried by the other side of the road without even slowing down to help the man. The only one who did stop to help was a Samaritan—a very unlikely prospect given that Samaritans were considered a lower class of people and marginalized by the Jews. The parable shows us what it looks like to put our faith into action rather than merely adhering to idle religious truth. It reminds us that if our love for God is genuine, it will be demonstrated by loving others indiscriminately (I John 3:17).

The Compassion Saboteur

Many years ago, two Princeton University psychologists did an experiment that involved a modern day re-creation of this parable, involving seminary students preparing for the ministry. The students were randomly split into two groups. The first group was asked to prepare a sermon on the parable of the Good Samaritan while the second group prepared a sermon on a random Bible text. The students were then scheduled to deliver this sermon at an appointed time and place.

Upon arriving at the first place, they were told that the location had been changed at the last minute and that they were to go to a new location. But before they could go, a second phase involved splitting the students into three groups with an added mix of “hurry manipulation.” One group was stressed into high hurry mode, the second was given a moderate hurry mode, and the third was told that they could take their time getting to the new venue (low hurry mode). After this hurry manipulation, the students were pointed to the exit and directed to proceed to the next venue.

Now, along the way to the next venue, the researchers had strategically positioned an actor in an alley to play the part of the man who was mugged in Jesus’ story, even showing signs of distress. He was slumped over and as the students passed by, the man groaned loudly.

So, who stopped to help? Only 10% of the seminary students who were in a hurry stopped to help, while 63% of those who weren’t in a hurry stopped to help.

The study showed that a willingness to demonstrate compassion had nothing to do with which of the students had just read the story of the Good Samaritan. The single greatest factor in demonstrating compassion was whether or not the person was in a hurry. Incidentally, in some cases, seminary students in the high hurry condition literally stepped over the groaning person on the way to deliver their sermon about the Good Samaritan!

They concluded that the words “you’re late” had the effect of making someone who was ordinarily compassionate and caring into someone who was indifferent to suffering. Hurry is a subtle form of evil in our day because it turns ordinarily compassionate people into self-absorbed, calloused jerks. We are a different kind of people when we are hurried. It messes with our internal capacity to walk in the rhythm of God’s love, compassion, and altruism.

In his book Life on the Vine, Philip Kenneson makes the point that love has a different kind of pace. “God walks ‘slowly’ because he is love… Love has its speed. It is an inner speed. It is a spiritual speed. It is a different kind of speed from the technological speed to which we are accustomed. It is ‘slow’ yet it is lord over all other speeds since it is the speed of love,” he says.

Give Your Spirit Time to Catch Up

A European explorer in Africa hired some native Africans to help carry his equipment through the jungle. They didn’t stop for three days. At the end of the third day, the hired hands stopped and refused to move on. The explorer asked why, and one of the African natives said, “We have moved too quickly to reach here, now we need to wait to give our spirits a chance to catch up with us.”

Beloved, we need Christ’s compassion. We need our hearts to break for the things that break God’s heart. But if we don’t take the time to slow down and let our spirits catch up with us, our pace can inadvertently turn us into calloused and indifferent people to those in need around us. Consider this as you take time to abide in Him this week.

Father, we desire Your love and mercy. Teach us the rhythms of Your grace. Help us to learn the pace of the Holy Spirit so that we don’t miss who You bring into our path this week to love as our neighbor. Guard us from hurriedness, callousness, and indifference. Fill us with Your compassion and kindness, and lead us out to make a difference in the lives around us. We pray, in Jesus’ name, amen.

twitter-64A hurried spirit is a saboteur that siphons the compassion right out of our daily lives.
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For further study: Proverbs 19:2; 21:5, Matthew 11:28-30, Philippians 4:6

Questions for Reflection and/or Family Discussion:

  1. How would you describe the difference between being busy and being hurried? Why is it important to recognize this difference?
  2. Jesus taught the importance of loving your neighbor as yourself. Who would you define as your neighbor? How does the parable of the Good Samaritan help shape this definition?
  3. When have you sensed the most compassion in your life? What factors do you think fueled that compassion?
  4. What can you do this week to overcome a ‘hurried spirit’ and see more of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22) in your life, even in times of busyness?

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