What If Your Love Was Really Pity?

The song said something about a man shuffling along with beads of sweat on his brow, and how the singer soon forgot about what he saw for more “important matters.” On the surface, the song made a good point—we should think about others beyond ourselves; but the song also made me wonder if the person felt sorry for the old man or did the singer really love him?

The description made us think this man might have been homeless or elderly. I didn’t recall hearing what the old man was doing to make the singer want to do something for him, then feel bad later when the singer did nothing. We can all make assumptions based prematurely on what we see, not really on what we know. In fact, some people habitually go around looking homeless, but it’s due to a lack of grooming not an actual state of things. A friend was actually presumed homeless and approached as such. I don’t know if he ever returned to church after that encounter. What we define as love can often be pity.

Have you ever helped someone even if it didn’t make you feel good and that deed would never be something that would make people look at you differently? Have you ever helped an obscure ministry whose work has a large impact, but little glory? That’s love—the kind that gets their hands dirty and intercedes when people need you even if you’d rather be doing something else. Sadly, I see and hear more pity than love. Pity is love’s counterfeit. It’s easy to mistake.

If the man was carrying groceries home and didn’t have a car, love walks with him and helps bear the burden. If the man was simply walking on a beautiful day or even on a bad day seeking solitude in the noise, our action would be considered an intrusion. Our words could wound and not heal. No one likes pity. Pity sometimes enables or it insults. Either way, feeling sorry for a man with bad grooming habits without knowing his history could really ruin his day. It’s like someone coming up to a woman and congratulating her on her pregnancy when she’s not pregnant.

If we can’t show love in the everyday things like as we drive, in the grocery store, at work, or anywhere else, then the “good deeds” we do for special things is a show of pity. Love gets to know people so they know their struggles and can help as a friend. Our church has this idea taken from another church. It’s called, “Oikos.” It’s the ten or fifteen people around us whose lives we are involved in that aren’t saved. Love gets involved. Love is the Good Samaritan in the Bible. Love is the cross.

We’ve all done this—shown pity, not love. I’ve done this. I wonder what our world would look like if people started to love like Jesus?

What do you think that would look like? Cite some of your examples.