May Compassion Find Its Home
I think we’ve lost it. Well kinda. I see it. I catch glimpses of it, sometimes in expected places, sometimes unexpected. It’s in these glimpses I find hope and joy and…the gospel. Let me be clear, these places aren’t always churches or religious organizations or even from religious people. Some days I feel like like I have to look harder than I should to find it and some days I look at the church and I wonder where it is. That’s what I want to talk about for a minute.
Where is our compassion? Unfettered. Unashamed.
From what I see the church’s compassion comes with an asterisk. It’s hard to discern what the asterisk means which is part of the problem. For example.
Have you ever met a homeless person asking for money?
Let’s be real. It’s awkward when anybody asks you for money but much more awkward when the man is gruff, a little bit dirty and has no concern for personal space or social cues. Immediately we’re put off by the request with little regard to the compassion we’re supposed to have for this man. (Matthew 25:42-45) We dismiss the coldness of our heart by assuring ourselves he would have just bought drugs or booze with no thought that maybe he didn’t make it to the shelter by closing time and was just hoping for a can of soup…or that the bottle of booze would have helped him stay warm or get to sleep faster in the freezing night.*
Am I the only one that finds it awkward that we can get all hyped up about packing shoe boxes for brown kids in other countries but 80% of us (evangelical Christians) voted for a candidate that ran on a platform centered on getting his fans hyped up about building a wall to keep brown kids out of our benevolent country? What’s better… a shoe box full of goodies or a life full of possibility?*
Or that we look at the ghettos and impoverished neighborhoods in our cities and we feel compassion for them. We know their poverty is generational and that the American dream is just a lie. Work hard, be a good person and you can…live in the same poverty your parents lived in and their parents and their parents. We look at them with compassion but we do our best to keep our kids away from them. We choose different schools or at least different classrooms to protect our children from…them? Their poverty?*
*No matter your walk of life or faith system arguments can be made to justify a valid but contrary position to mine. But that’s my point, as believers is our GREATEST calling to argue and defend our way of life? My answer to that is no. It’s not.
Let me explain myself.
Love wins the day.
Faith, hope and love are good things. But the greatest of these is love.
The apostle Paul told us that in 1 Corinthians 13. In that same chapter that he said if we speak eloquently in the tongues of men, if we speak heavenly words like those of the angels but don’t have love we’re just making noise (my paraphrase).
In short, talk all you want, fight whatever moral battles you feel you need to fight but if you don’t have love, first love, love above all then it’s all just noise. Painful, irritating, noise.
Are we content to be the noise makers in our society or do we want to be difference makers? Is the message of the cross compelling enough to us, meaningful enough to us to drive us to a deep, compassionate, nothing else matters kind of love? For everyone even the ones that deserve an asterisk?
Friends, let me ask. Do we love well?
- Religious folks
- Church leaders
- (Did I miss anyone?)
“But what about…?” you might object.
What about who?
You mean the people that Jesus talked about in Luke 6– the people that are hard to love? Or worse, the people that we label our enemies. It seems Jesus had something to say about that too. In that passage he told us to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us, to the one who smacks you offer the other cheek, give freely to those who steal from you. Love your enemies.
Love. Love when it hurts. Love when it’s not our natural reaction. Love.
When we love our message rings true. When we love the cross is glorified. When we love the reaction to the gospel is not one of offense but one of consideration.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.