Recently many of my friends and I have been discussing compassion and the compassionate Christ. What is it, what would it look like are questions we have asked ourselves and discussed with each other. One important issue we need to address and think about is how do we bring the reality of a compassionate Christ into our world and let it change it for the better. It is good to think about it, talk, get ideas but that is not enough. If all we do is dream about what may be possible nothing will ever change. We need to put feet to our prayers, our thoughts, ideas and so forth. We need to have a passion for compassion.
Passion as defined by Merriam-Webster is described as an intense driving or overmastering feeling or conviction. It is also defined as a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some object, activity or concept/idea. It is also an object of desire or deep interest. Passion of itself is neither good nor bad but neutral. One can have passion for one's country i.e. nationalism, passion for ones church and wanting everyone to convert to it and persecuting all who disagree with you, for a cause. One the other hand one can also have a passion for people, for social justice, for those who hurt, for peace and an end to all wars. Equally we can have a passion for equal rights for everyone, a passion to see every vote counted in a state or national election, for LGBT rights, same sex marriage, a woman's right to choose and for many other causes. Finally we can have a passion for compassion which I believe we need so we can take the compassionate Christ to the world and they respond and together we can change things for the better and for eternity. What then is this compassion that we need to have passion for?
Going back again to Merriam-Webster compassion is defined as a sympathetic consciousness of others distress combined together with a desire to alleviate it. This is more than feeling sorry for say the people who lost everything in a natural disaster such as an earthquake, wild fire, floods, famine, or for those killed in the many mass shootings that have rocked our nation in recent years. It is also more than feeling sorrow and pain for those who have been killed or otherwise affected by the wars in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world. It is not enough to feel sorry about the poor starving children in Africa or even the homeless here at home or the veterans returning home to to an ungrateful nation and no benefits that they were promised. As James writes in his book:
"What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." (James 2:14-17 NIV)
Thus compassion is taking our awareness, sympathies, and desire to help and putting feet to them. It is putting our faith into action so the many problems that beset our world can be addressed, conquered, solved and alleviated over time as we unite together in love and unleash the power of love through compassion to affect and change our world. It is to stand up to injustice wherever it may be and loudly say no to it. It is to proclaim that we will not accept as final our world as it is currently. However we will continue to fight for and believe in a better world than we have at present. We will work to give our children something better that was left to us by our parents. Also we will continue to believe that love ultimately wins out and triumphs over all evil and injustice. Believing this then we will continue believing that the peace on earth proclaimed on that first Christmas night by the angels, is possible and can in fact become reality in our time.
We don't have to wait for some apocalyptic event that will cause Christ to come back to earth and establish his visible kingdom on earth. Christ taught that those who follow his commandments are his true followers. His commandment is love for God, our neighbor, ourselves and for each other. The Apostle John in his first epistle says that all who love are born of God. Thus if we want to be a true follower of Christ love is mandatory. It is also realizing that Jesus is already here and has never left. In Matthew 24th chapter it lists a whole list of things that will precede his second coming to earth. The word coming used there can also mean presence. Therefore Jesus could be saying when you see these signs happening don't panic my presence is with you. The last words Christ is quoted as saying in the Gospel of Matthew prior to his ascension is that he would be with us always even to the end of the world/age. According to the writer of Hebrews Jesus will never leave or forsake us. Do we get the picture? Jesus is here now. I believe he is waiting for his followers to realize that and tap into the power that Jesus gives not by wringing our hands but instead allowing ourselves to become the hands and feet of Christ to a lost and dying world. It is to act as Christ did with compassion letting him shine forth from us to them so they can be changed into his likeness even as we ourselves are being changed into the likeness of Christ daily and moment by moment.
This is why we need to have a passion for compassion, a feeling and a fire that won't die down or go out. It needs to be so strong is us that it consumes us and flows from us. It is to be in such a state that we are constantly looking for ways to express our compassion to others. We may not solve all the world's problems in our lifetime. However we can light the fire, start the ball rolling, and launch a movement that those who come after us can embrace and run with until our vision of compassion and all it encompasses becomes reality.
In closing let me again let me state that this passion for compassion can be had and gotten by anyone who has love, and concern for our world and wants to see change. It embraces all religions, all peoples, whether religious or not, all races, sexes and sexual orientations, rich or poor no one is exempt from or outside of its reach. To that end this book is dedicated as we look at what its all about and ideas from a biblical perspective of how we can show compassion. I invite you to join me as we explore further and do like myself and many others pledge and commit yourself to being a person and disciple of compassion.
What is the Compassionate Attitude to Life?
"And when she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby wept. So she had compassion on him, and said, "This is one of the Hebrews' children." ( Exodus 2:6 NKJV)
I would like to start this chapter with the story of Moses. He was from a despised nation of slaves. He was also supposed to be killed as soon as he was born. However his parents decide to save his life and save him by hiding him from the authorities who wanted to kill him. This worked for three months but then Moses was getting to big to be safely hidden anymore. So his mother puts him in a basket which is discovered by the Pharaoh's daughter. As princesses of Egypt I am sure she was well aware of the law made by her father ordering the killing of all male Hebrew children. However she chooses to disregard that law and instead has compassion on the child. Which brings me to a question what does it mean to be prolife and how does compassion play a role in it?
In the Hebrew here compassion means to commiserate, to spare, to have pity and to have compassion. Commiserate means to feel or express sympathy, to offer condolences, and to feel or express sorrow or compassion for something. How does Pharaoh's daughter show compassion here and how does it apply to us today in the 21st century?
First lets look at what Pharaoh's daughter was not. She was not a legalist otherwise she would have killed Moses in accordance with the law and maybe even worn praise from her father for what she had done. On the other hand she was not a woman of indifference. She could have walked away, ignored the child in the basket, telling herself it wasn't her child, her responsibility and left it to its fate. She didn't do that either. Neither did she just stand there wringing her hands, weeping over the fate or seeming abandonment of the child. Instead she is a woman of action who puts wings to her feelings which leads to something miraculous taking place.
As we begin this next section let us note that what she does she doesn't do in ignorance. She is well aware that the child is a Hebrew child that she should have nothing to do with. Instead she gets someone to help take care of the child by nursing it for her. In this case the nurse hired is the child's mother. Later she takes the boy and brings him into the courts of Egypt adopting him and raising him in the best and finest of what Egypt had to offer. Thus she showed compassion for Moses. In the end later on in Moses life this would serve him in good stead. It is my belief that the time he spent being taken care of by his natural mother gave him a love for the God of Israel and a desire to serve him above all else. On the other hand the time he spent in the royal courts taught him many things that would prove useful later on when he would lead the children of Israel to the borders of the Promise Land.
How does this apply to us in the 21st century? After all it's a nice story that happened long ago in another time and world different from our own. So what relevance does it have for us today? Many today are out protesting abortion and wanting to save innocent babies lives by the outlawing of that practice for an example. They picket, carry signs demanding an end to abortion and weep for the innocent who are being slaughtered. That's good as I believe God is anti abortion too and weeps for all who are killed. However I believe God weeps even more for all the abandoned children of the world. Those children who do not have loving parents and families to take care of them, those children who are forced to live on the streets trying to make it as best they can, those children who are exploited by pimps as sex slaves, children whose youth is destroyed by the actions of people they should have been able to trust such as parents, priests, relatives, teachers who raped, beat them unmercifully, and molested them. God weeps for those who never had a chance to learn so they could better themselves These are also ones for whom God weeps and for whom I believe compassion demands we too weep for also and then go and do something about it.
For you see prolife is more than producing babies to become the next generation of drug addicts, gang members, latch key kids, abandoned without hope seeking to survive by whatever means they can. It is more than bringing children into a world they can't understand. A world where they are taught they have no value where they are nothing. A world they try to escape through drugs, alcohol, sex and violence until they finally explode and commit mass shootings such as we have seen rock our land in recent years. We make soldiers of them train them to kill and be violent and then when they come home forget them and leave them alone to fight their own inner demons. That is not what pro life is about and in this Pharaoh's daughter shows us what true pro life is all about.
Pharaoh's daughter took Moses and cared for him by doing everything she could to provide for him up until he became an adult and went on his own to fulfill his destiny. In like manner prolife is concerned with the child's welfare from the time of conception up to a minimal of the time they become an adult ready to take their place in society and become what God made them to be. Thus that would include prenatal care for the mother, daycare so the mother can work to support her child or go to school to get a better education so as to be better able to care of her child. It would also include in my opinion free health care so the child can grow up healthy and strong, free good nutritional meals so the child is alert and able to study and learn, money for schooling so the child can get the best education possible, afterschool programs where the child can learn to interact with others, learn sports and how to work together as a team, to work on a project and accomplish a goal, where they can learn to be winners not quitters and everyone regardless of the color of their skin, their sex or sexual orientation, their religion or lack thereof, their nationality or race or anything else, that we are all the same and what we have in common is more than what divides us. This I believe compassion compels us to do and work for.
For a passion for compassion will want to make sure that the next generation I believe has every chance that can be given it to help them become all God intended them to be. It is to make sure they have all the tools they need to be compassionate people and then take this vision of compassion we are learning about and run with it, teaching it to others who can then pass it on until the day it becomes reality and God's rule and peace extend over every inch of planet earth. That I believe is part of our call to compassion. We can either embrace that call or ignore it and leave things as they are now until someone else catches the vision and a passion for compassion. May we step us to the plate with our passion for compassion and begin to work for answers. We have looked at one way of showing compassion but it is not the only way. There are many others and in future chapters we will look at them. I invite you to stay with me as we together continue to explore and learn about compassion.