I was having a conversation with someone a few days ago, and from that experience a sadness welled up in me. We had been discussing the person’s work, what their hopes and dreams were as they progressed in their career. I was feeling a real joy for that person, and a hope for their future. Somehow, the conversation turned to the extremely cold weather we’ve experienced and the plight of those who are homeless and on the streets. The person expressed no sympathy for those persons, they commented those persons just needed to get jobs and take care of themselves. This made me really sad for someone who has a good job, a nice place to live, people who care about them. Somehow, they were not moved to empathize with those who were less fortunate.
The reason I was moved to sadness was, this person was saying what I’ve heard a great many others say. It seems we are living in a time when all too few of us are moved to have compassion on the less fortunate. There are a great many who barely get by with the employment they have. Either the pay is not really enough to meet their needs, or the job isn’t a steady and reliable income source. There are those who have been evicted from their homes because they couldn’t pay the rent. An eviction becomes a stumbling block to find another place that will allow you to rent. If you have a conviction on your record, there are very few places that will allow you a second chance. There are also those who have lived on the margins for so long, its difficult for them to see hope for something better.
My heart breaks for our sisters and brothers who find themselves in these kinds of situations. There is something deep inside of us that should move us each to have compassion for those who suffer. At the University of California, they state “Compassion literally means ‘to suffer together.’ Among emotion researchers, it is defined as the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering.”
In Matthew 9:35-36 we read, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
In Psalms 145:9 we are told, “The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.”
Paul tells us in Colossians 3:12, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
You see, compassion is a human quality imparted to each of us from the Divine. It is to be part of our nature. God continues to look on us, the situations we find ourselves in, the problems we face, the times when we’ve messed up, and God shows compassion and grace to each of us. Can we do less than that for those around us who suffer?
What we know of Jesus’ nature, it was to have compassion for those who suffered around him. Jesus didn’t make it his business to ask how they got in the situation they were in. Jesus didn’t judge them for their actions. Jesus didn’t make them jump through all kinds of hoops to gain his favor. Jesus simply allowed his compassion to surface, and he lavished it on those who were in need. We live in a world that isn’t always kind to the most vulnerable among us. You and me, we call ourselves Christians, but are we such without compassion? When we begin to follow Jesus, we are called to be like him. We are called to love our neighbors, and especially when it is the most difficult. We are about to enter into the season of Lent, what a great time for me to become more aware of the suffering around me. Awareness will hopefully move me to acts of grace, acts of compassion, acts of love. Who knows, I might actually find myself walking in the footsteps of the One I say I follow.
Your companion on the Way,