Our small group at church is studying the book of Isaiah. We read chapter one a few weeks ago, and I was struck by the emphasis on helping the widows and the fatherless. The prophet writes, "Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow" (Isaiah 1:16-18). Later on in the chapter, the prophet excoriates those who fail to defend the fatherless and the widow. It's a pretty specific exhortation–not a general idea that those who are poor and oppressed should be encouraged, but a particular call to compassionate action on behalf of those whose cries may well go unheard.
Later on the same day, Penny and I were reading the story of the Good Samaritan from her Children's Bible. She became very concerned when she realized that the story revolved around a man who was hurt. The book asks, "Who will help him?"
Penny looked up at me, with her palm on her chest, and said, "Me help! Me help!"
Later, the book asks again, "Who will help him?"
This time, Penny said, "Mama help! Mama help!"
It struck me that I don't have Penny's unfettered reaction to those in need. I read about the fatherless and the widow, the poor and the oppressed, and it is easy for them to join a vague category of "those people" in need. It's easy for me to ignore the specificity of the call for help. I tend to think, if I think about "them" at all, that I'll give some money to a relevant cause. I don't naturally have Penny's insistent and emotional reaction to those who are in need, especially those whom I don't know personally.
So I leave Isaiah, and the Good Samaritan, with two desires. First, a practical one–that I would be more attentive to the needs of those around me, particularly those who are defenseless. Second, an emotional one–that I would have Jesus' heart for those around me, that I would respond with the same emotional involvement that my daughter exhibits when she sees the man lying on the side of the road.