25 June 2013

"Compassion"? A parable (re-post)

by Dan Phillips

First posted in January of 2011, this little item seems all the more timely today.


A Visitor's Center one day was manned by twin brothers Nick and Knack. A car pulled into the parking lot, disgorging a breathlessly eager visitor.

"May we help you?" offered Nick genially.

"Yes, thank you!" bubbled the newcomer. "All my life I've been longing to travel Route 49! Can you show me the most direct way?"

Nick paled.

"Oh, I'm very sorry, but you don't want to go Route 49."

"But I do!" insisted the visitor.

"Let me rephrase myself," amended Nick. "You may want to, but you really mustn't.  The road goes along nicely at first, but then you'll see a bunch of roadblocks and obstacles laid across it, slowing you down and warning you off. These impediments aren't really a problem; they're actually a good thing...."

"How can they be a good thing," the visitor cuts in angrily. "This is my dream! I want to zoom, not be slowed down."

"I was going to say," continued Nick, "they're a good thing because otherwise you'll shoot straight off the stub of a broken bridge and plummet 800 feet to your death on the rocky rapids below."

"Oh," said the visitor, turning a bit white himself.

"He says," observed Knack, leaning forward, putting down his latte and stroking his soul-patch.

"The map says," countered Nick.

"Map?" asked the visitor.

"Yep, right here," replied Nick, spreading out the item itself on the counter. "See that red X there? It means bridge out."

"You say it means that," snarked Knack. "say it means 'X marks the spot.'"

"Oh, come on," retorted Nick. "There's a legend at the bottom of the map, for crying out loud! See? 'Bridge out!' It isn't rocket science."


"Scholars now realize that 'X' means many different things in different cultures. Besides, you're talking as if that's the only map," drawled Knack. "This one shows a clear, delightful road right where our visitor wants to go. See?"

"That's in crayon!" exploded Nick.

"You got something against crayon?" inquired Knack.

"No," Nick shot back. "I have something against people destroying themselves."

"Psh," Knack sneered. "You just want safety in rules. The visitor's a daring seeker. He should seek. The journey is what matters, not the destination."

"Seek death?" Nick replied. "I think he'll care plenty about the destination when his car shoots off into space."

There was an angry silence, broken by a sob. It was the visitor, who has tears running down his cheeks.

"All I know is I've yearned to go down Route 49 as long as I remember. Some kids mocked me, others ridiculed me and were mean to me, but the desire has always been there. I can't conceive of not wanting to go down Route 49. It's what my heart tells me to do, and I have to be true to my heart, don't I? I can't lie. It defines me. You can't separate this desire from me. I can't imagine not wanting to go that way. It fills my dreams. I even have a T-shirt. See?" He pulled open his blazer and displayed the garment.

"I understand," crooned Knack. "There is nothing wrong with you or with what you want. And there's nothing wrong with going that way. For you, it is the only way. And in fact, I want to help you. I will personally go ahead of you and remove all the blocks, chains, signs, speed bumps, and ropes that have been stretched across the road. I will mount a parade for you — a Route 49 Pride parade. I will lobby to prohibit people from speaking against traveling Route 49. I will side with you against all the harsh, rule-happy Route 49 nay-sayers. In fact, I will get my brother here fired, because he made you feel bad about wanting to go Route 49. He doesn't care about your feelings, as I do. He doesn't have any love or compassion for you, and I've got buckets of both. Nick's all about rules and maps and shutting you out and playing it safe; I'm all about love and compassion and justice and being bold and daring. Nick is shallow, reactionary and not helpful. I'm deep and thoughtful and helpful. So you just get in your car, and you go go go!"

As the visitor beamed, Nick sprang to block the door. "Whoa whoa whoa, not so fast! Look, friend — how you feel about Route 49 doesn't change the facts: the bridge is out! My feelings aren't the map, your feelings aren't the map. Go that way, and you will die! I don't want you to die. I don't think it's loving or compassionate to give you bad information that means your death. The people who put up those signs and those obstacles knew what they were doing, and they did it because they care about people like you. It shouldn't be easy an comfortable to go down that road. It wouldn't be compassionate of me to focus on giving you a smooth ride to your own destruction, and it isn't "bold" and "daring" to head off to certain doom. Enabling you isn't really helping you. And look, I can show you other ways to go, or I can try to find other ways to help — but don't go that way! It'd be the end of you."

Silence fell again for a moment, then:

"We could call a five-year moratorium on this," offered Knack.

"But I want to go that way now," countered the visitor.

"The map says what it says now, and it isn't unclear," said Nick. "It's said that for a long time, and nothing's changed. Nothing's going to change in five years."

The visitor looked back and forth between the brothers, confused. He knew which brother's advice he liked best, which brother told him what he wanted to hear, but... was that the wisest way to decide?

PREMISE: the bridge was indeed out, and the map was indeed accurate.

QUESTION: which brother actually showed love and compassion?

Dan Phillips's signature

8 comments:

Robert said...

Still a great parable that is analogous to what is going on these days. I'll be curious to see how the Supreme Court handles their decisions this week.

Paul Reed said...

ha! Brilliant post. Does it summarize the debate of gay "marriage" well or what? To answer the question "which brother actually showed love and compassion?", I'd say compassion doesn't enter in so much as authority of the map. If you believe the map is accurate, you'll say something, if you don't, you won't. It's more of a case of "Assuming Jesus is dead and was a liar" (http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2013/06/assuming-jesus-lied-and-is-dead.html). Knack assumes this before the discussion even begins. This assumption is so common that I never noticed it, but after Dan's post on it earlier this month, I'm starting to notice it all the time.

And I have a followup comment. Imagine if instead of being a page long, this blog post on this debate between Nick, Knack, and the visitor went on for about 3000 pages. I'm curious at what point Nick just throws up his hands and says, "Hey, you both win. Go down Route 49. And if you especially want to enjoy it the route, punch that baby to 130 miles per hour". (Romans 1:28)

DJP said...

Right; but Knack would have claimed compassion. As Satan's just being a good friend to Eve in Genesis 3, speaking with her very best interests in mind.

Bill said...
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Dale Wilson said...

While the post is certainly applicable to homosexual "marriage", it is equally applicable to the massive amount of non-Biblical divorce and remarriage that has been condoned by the "Christian churches" over the past 50 or so years. Of course, it equally applicable to any favorite sin that we want to quit calling sin because it makes people happy.

Still a good post. Thanks Dan.

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

In keeping with trogdor's comment from 2011: http://t.co/sYUhID3xyS Unless we battle to be Nick and not Knack, we are in danger of being a False Shemp, who may very well become a Knack - like the folks at Exodus international did. Nick showed the most compassion, willing to be hated by Knack and the driver-by, that he might spare the driver-by from plummeting to his death.

Robert said...

Let us not forget that Satan is clever and feigns compassion for mankind, just as DJP says Knack would have claimed compassion. This goes for all kinds of issues.

We are battling powers and principalities and need to have an appreciation for the enemy that drives us to count upon God and His Word to deliver us from temptation and evil schemes. As I prepare to teach on the temptation of Jesus, I am reminded that He went to Deuteronomy to handle Satan's temptation. May we stay true to Scripture and not lean upon our own natural thinking to combat the evil schemes that are all around us.

Thanks for this parable showing the need to stay true to the Word of God (aka the map in this story).

DebbieLynne said...

I had hoped you'd do a post on this topic. Indeed, true compassion warns of danger.