To be insensitive to the needs of others is for Christians a denial of who they are and of what their Lord requires of them. If the main theme of Scripture is redemption, united to it as effect to cause is the theme of responsibility for one’s neighbor. From the question in Genesis 4, “Am I my brother’s keeper?,” through the epistles, the Bible demands concern for the well-being of others.
Woven into the very fabric of Christianity is compassion. At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus applied to himself the words of Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” At the heart of Jesus’ ministry was concern for the individual. He left the ninety and nine and sought the one. For him the individual had immeasurable worth; he died not for an impersonal mass of humanity but for persons.
Paul’s exhortation, “Have this mind among yourselves, which you have in Christ Jesus,” points to the supreme example of unselfishness who laid aside the insignia of his divine majesty and became obedient unto death. Our Lord’s word to his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me,” demands selfless living. Moreover, Christ spoke in terms of his own identification with the deprived and underprivileged: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.… Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren you did it to me … as you did it not to one of ...1
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