Archive for the ‘Compassion’ Category

Following Jesus’ Model

Sunday, May 24th, 2020

We have in Jesus the greatest model of compassion and kindness ever to walk the planet, and that needs to count for something. It needs to influence how we as followers of Christ interact with people we disagree with, or we end up simply being clanging cymbals, a loud, loveless noise in the ears of those around us, and feeling justified in doing so. We need to figure out how to live without the bullhorn and to find that quiet place of civility that Jesus finds so many times with so many different people. The idea of universal family or kinship is at the core of the Christian faith too, of all people made in the image of God, all creations of the same Creator, all equally flawed, all equally worthy of compassion. Our story is that every person is the neighbor we are called to love as ourselves.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 120

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 23, 2020

God’s Amazing Love

Sunday, May 17th, 2020

The story of Jesus told as accompaniment makes clear that there is no master plan in the divine mind to engineer his death in order to garner satisfaction for everyone else’s sins. The cross was in no way necessary. Think about it. Wouldn’t such an idea be blasphemy? It would ascribe to God, gracious and merciful, an evil that was done in the course of human injustice. How contradictory can you get?

Not even remotely did Jesus’ death satisfy divine honor; it dragged that honor into the dust. Nor did Jesus’ crucifixion change God’s attitude from anger to being appeased, as more popular atonement theologies would have it. I dare say that if the will of the living God had been carried out that “good” Friday, Jesus would not have been crucified.

The double solidarity of Jesus with those who suffer and of God with Jesus structures a theology of accompaniment so that it brings the presence of God who saves to the fore. Keep in mind that we are talking here about the same God who sides with slaves against the might of Pharaoh, with exiles against their imperial captors, and now with a crucified prophet against the Roman empire; “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Ex 34:6-7). We are talking about the same gracious God, “your Savior and your Redeemer” (Isa 49:26), whom Jesus called father, whose compassion flashed out from the picturesque parables Jesus made up, and was tasted in the challenge and joy of his multiple interactions. Toward the end of the New Testament we read the bold statement that “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). This is a pithy summary of all that has gone down in the history of revelation up to that point. God loves the world and, like any good lover, wants the beloved to flourish.

Given the negativity of the cross, the creative power of the loving God showed itself once again in an unexpected new way by (unimaginably) raising Jesus from the dead. But God neither needed nor wanted the cross. True, this evil was encompassed by providential action, by God writing straight with crooked lines. True, in an antagonistic world suffering borne in the loving struggle for the good of others can bear fruit. But in itself, violent death is not what God desires.

— Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross, p. 108-109

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 17, 2020

Resurrecting Word

Monday, May 4th, 2020

To those who believe, the call from the depths of their relationship with God is to bend every effort to stand with God in solidarity with those who suffer; to right the wrongs, counter injustice, relieve the pain, and create situations where life can flourish. Then a resurrecting word can gain a foothold in this fractured world.

— Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross, p. 108

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 3, 2020

Caring for People

Thursday, April 16th, 2020

It doesn’t feel very difficult to draw a direct line between the messages many of us received from the church and the harm we’ve experienced in our bodies and spirits as a result. So my argument in this book is this: we should not be more loyal to an idea, a doctrine, or an interpretation of a Bible verse than we are to people. If the teachings of the church are harming the bodies and spirits of people, we should rethink those teachings.

— Nadia Bolz-Weber, Shameless, p. 5

Photo: Bluebell Trail, Bull Run Regional Park, Virginia, April 17, 2014

Learning Stories

Friday, April 10th, 2020

I found curiosity a much more loving posture than judgment. I also came to understand that when I am curious about someone, they often feel valued. It is easy to care about people after you know their story and hard to judge them.

I think that is what Jesus had in mind for us. Knowing people’s stories ignites the caring God desires for us to extend. An easy way to love others is to start with a question. Listen to their story. Don’t rush in with solutions or advice or offer up your latest big idea. Be inquisitive and attend to what people offer you. Rome was not built in a day and trust is not built in a minute.

–Tom Berlin, Reckless Love, p. 105-106

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, April 2, 2020

Radical Solidarity

Monday, March 23rd, 2020

The point of the Christian life is not to distinguish oneself from the ungodly, but to stand in radical solidarity with everyone and everything else. This is the full, final, and intended effect of the Incarnation — symbolized by its finality in the cross, which is God’s great act of solidarity instead of judgment. Without a doubt, Jesus perfectly exemplified this seeing, and thus passed it on to the rest of history. This is how we are to imitate Christ, the good Jewish man who saw and called forth the divine in Gentiles like the Syro-Phoenician woman and the Roman centurions who followed him; in Jewish tax collectors who collaborated with the Empire; in zealots who opposed it; in sinners of all stripes; in eunuchs, pagan astrologers, and all those “outside the law.” Jesus had no trouble whatsoever with otherness. In fact, these “lost sheep” found out they were not lost to him at all, and tended to become his best followers.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 33

Hope Amid the Horror

Friday, March 6th, 2020

More than five hundred years before Jesus’ death on the cross, Second Isaiah proclaimed that the God who created heaven and earth was redeeming and saving Israel and forgiving their sin out of the infinite depths of divine compassion. This God is forever faithful and does not need anyone to die in order to be merciful. It is strange to contemplate how Christian preaching in the tradition of the satisfaction theory seems to assume that some seismic shift suddenly changed the divine character, so that Jesus’ death was necessary to win favor for sinners. One hears that he came to die, and without the cross we would not be saved, as if at some point the flow of divine mercy were shut down, needing Jesus’ death to start it up again. As we will discover, however, rather than making a necessary gift to placate divine honor, Jesus’ brutal death enacts the solidarity of the gracious and merciful God with all who die and especially with victims of injustice, opening hope for resurrection amid the horror.

— Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross, p. 50

Photo: March 6, 2015, South Riding, Virginia

His Kind of Eyes

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019

Have you ever noticed that the expression “the light of the world” is used to describe the Christ (John 8:12), but that Jesus also applies the same phrase to us? (Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world.”) Few preachers ever pointed that out to me.

Apparently, light is less something you see directly, and more something by which you see all other things. In other words, we have faith in Christ so we can have the faith of Christ. That is the goal. Christ and Jesus seem quite happy to serve as conduits, rather than provable conclusions. (If the latter was the case, the Incarnation would have happened after the invention of the camera and the video recorder!) We need to look at Jesus until we can look out at the world with his kind of eyes. The world no longer trusts Christians who “love Jesus” but do not seem to love anything else.

–Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 31-32

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, November 23, 2019

Empathy

Monday, September 16th, 2019

Empathy says: You and I are made of the same lovely, heartbroken, and screwed-up stuff. You are not an object to me right now. (Maybe I’m not, either! Let me get back to you on this.) Empathy, a moment’s compassion, seeing that everyone has equal value, even people who have behaved badly, is as magnetic a force as gratitude. It draws people to us, thus giving us the capacity to practice receiving love, the scariest thing of all, and to experience the curiosity of a child.

— Anne Lamott, Almost Everything, p. 174

Photo:  Cascade in France, September 29, 1997

Compassion

Monday, September 9th, 2019

Compassion isn’t a gift or talent – it’s the natural result of paying attention and realizing the infinite opportunities to connect with others.

— Sharon Salzberg, Real Love, p. 293

Photo:  Eibsee, Germany, July 17, 2000