Mar 2 2015

The Power of Pity

Drop Box Film Power Pity

A third of the way through Brian Ivie’s documentary, The Drop Box, we meet a girl who works with Pastor Lee Jong-rak’s ministry in South Korea — a ministry that provides refuge to orphans through an anonymous donation system that they call the baby box. Often, these orphans are disabled and would have otherwise been abandoned to the streets.

Staring past the camera, the girl confesses to feeling strange when she first came in contact with these Korean orphans.

She felt pity.

It’s a feeling that many of us have when we come face-to-face with the misfortunes of others — with those whom we perceive to have less than us.

We feel pity.

We feel pity when we see things we don’t understand. We feel pity when we feel helpless to act. Many people, myself included, feel pity — but that’s as far as it goes.

Pity can sometimes stop action from happening.

Prideful Pity

I hate the way my pity makes me feel. I feel arrogant and dirty when I experience it. I think that’s because pity puts me in a place of superiority, of having something — possession, knowledge, etc. — over someone else. My pity is a symptom of my pride.

When I feel pity, I feel uncomfortable. It makes me extremely self-aware. And this self-awareness covers me to a point where I can emotionally detach from the experience.

But then I look at Jesus. I see the stories, like in Matthew 9, where He looks at the crowds of people around Him and feels pity on them, and I think there is a kind of pity that is good. Many translations use the word compassion instead of pity.

When I feel pity, my reaction is to hide. When Jesus feels pity, His reaction is to act.

He is compelled and inspired to get involved by feeding those who are hungry, healing those who are dying, and loving those who are despised.

Wonderful Pity

What does Jesus have that I don’t have? Love, obviously. But it’s much more than love. He has a perspective on others that I don’t have. What inspires us to act can sometimes be the very thing that keeps us from it, too.

I look at people and think “Oh, no.” Jesus looks at us and thinks “Oh, yes.”

I believe that difference in perspective comes from a feeling of wonder.

I think Jesus looks at people — all people — and has a sense of wonder. He looks at the poor and broken and despised and is in awe of them.

Wonder is a sense of awe that isn’t directed at ourselves. A sky full of stars. A body composed of DNA.

Wonder is the exploration of what wasn’t and now is and what may be. Something outside of our control and unexplained by reason.

Wonder is Pastor Lee.

Wonder is the smile of children whose lives are in the balance. Balance between being discarded or being known, between future difficulties or future possibilities, and sometimes, between death or life.

Tipping the Balance

Whether it’s for the 150 million orphans around the world, or for the 400 million children living in extreme poverty, we are all called. We may not be called to adopt. We may not be called to sponsor a child.

But … We. Are. Called.

That calling goes beyond feeling pity. It is a call to act. It is a call to choose to be uncomfortable.

It is a call to sacrifice a piece of ourselves — our dignity or our time or our possessions or our comfort — for a purpose and promise that is bigger than ourselves.

The Drop Box film will be showing in theaters from March 3-5, 2015. You can find out more about the documentary and if it’s playing in a theater near you, or buy group tickets, at

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