FLINT, MI – Harry Houdini, though famous for his illusions and spectacular escapes, was also famous for being able to take a punch to the stomach. Men would line up to see if they could buckle Harry’s knees with their “best shot”. Ironically, a punch to the gut may have helped to bring about the demise of the great magician. A college student asked Mr. Houdini if it was true about his ability to take punches, but before Harry could answer, the student started hammering away. Harry was caught completely off-guard. Unable to tighten his abdomen muscles may have led to the damage of his appendix or masked the pain of the oncoming condition. Leading to his death.
Compassion is a “gut-shot”. It hurts deep down. But, the punches to the stomach we see in the Bible bring restoration and revival and healing and everlasting life. It’s the feeling Nehemiah had for his God and his city. Even if it meant death, he had to do something. It’s the feeling Pharaoh’s daughter had toward Moses. Even if it meant losing her standing with her father, she had to do something. It’s the good Samaritan helping a stranger, no matter the cost. It was the right thing and he had to do it. Or the father in the story of the Prodigal. Running to his son, grabbing his son by the back of the neck, hugging him and restoring him to the family. Against the religious leaders and the fears of other fathers, the father had to save his Son. And it’s that pain that pushed Jesus toward the Cross. In Luke 19, Jesus is getting closer to Jerusalem and He starts to weep. He hurts for the lost. He has to do something. He can’t help Himself.
Christianity is a constant gut-shot. My pastor used to say, “The disciples saw the people as problems, Christ saw the problems of the people.” The disciples sent the people away, Jesus said come. The disciples wanted to rain down fire and brimstone, Jesus showed grace and mercy. Jesus had compassion on the hurting; the blind, the lame, the possessed, the diseased, male or female, Jew and Gentile. He went against what society thought, what the religious leaders thought, what his earthly family thought, and it would cost Him His life.
I have been blessed to witness compassion in action. My Grandma King was a Girl Scout leader. But Grandma’s troop was for all the “undesirables”, the kids who were “different” physically and mentally. Back then the parents would isolate or institutionalize these children. When a child wasn’t allowed to go to school, Grandma would get that feeling in her stomach, and she would go to their house and beg them to let that girl become a scout.
Churches have become more like Houdini. We tighten up so the punches won’t affect us. We are getting better. At Ainsworth we are coming together to feed, aid, and minister to our community. We have to. It hurts too much to remain silent and do nothing. We must show them Jesus is alive, or we’ll end up dead, like Harry.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeff King is the pastor at Ainsworth Baptist Church in Flint, Michigan and he lives in Flushing. He married his high school sweetheart Lisa and the two have been married almost 39 years. They have two daughters and four grandchildren.