Archive for the ‘Compassion’ Category

God’s Heart for the Poorest

Wednesday, October 21st, 2020

This identification extends to all, including those we might consider “the least” — least healthy, least wealthy, least moral, least innocent, etc. God’s heart for the poorest in every category is not an application of the gospel. It’s intrinsic to it. We don’t see Christ in the “least of these” because they’ve chosen to follow him, but because in his Incarnation, Christ identified with the plight of every man, woman and child on the planet.

— Bradley Jersak, A More Christlike Way, p. 222

Photo: Skyline Drive Overlook, October 14, 2020

Like God

Saturday, October 3rd, 2020

In fact, Jesus tells his disciples to turn the other cheek and to love their enemies specifically because this is what God does to His own enemies. So, when we love our enemies, we are like God who sends the rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike. (See Matt. 5:45)

Jesus also shows us an “Abba” who, like the father of the prodigal son, goes out of his way to seek out his children; to embrace them, forgive them, and extend mercy to them, and who does not require punishment before extending this love to us.

Taking these facts into account, I find it highly unlikely that Jesus would have accepted the new teaching of Eternal Suffering, as the Pharisees had done. It seems far outside of his character to have embraced such a doctrine, especially in light of the merciful, patient, and loving God he revealed to us.

— Keith Giles, Jesus Undefeated, p. 77-78

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, October 2, 2020.

One Caring Foot

Friday, August 28th, 2020

The Spirit seems to work best underground. When aboveground, humans start fighting about it.

You can call this grace, the indwelling Holy Spirit, or just evolution toward union (which we call “love”). God is not in competition with anybody, but only in deep-time cooperation with everybody who loves (Romans 8:28). Whenever we place one caring foot forward, God uses it, sustains it, and blesses it. Our impulse does not need to wear the name of religion at all.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 100

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, August 23, 2020

Agents of Healing and Change

Saturday, August 22nd, 2020

In this way, the spiritual eyes through which we see the world change everything. If our default lens is sin, we tend to look ahead to the afterlife, but if we focus on suffering, we’ll lean toward presently transforming the planet in real time — and we’ll create community accordingly. The former seeks to help people escape the encroaching moral decay by getting them into heaven; the latter takes seriously the prayer Jesus teaches his disciples, that they would make the kingdom come — that through lives resembling Christ and work that perpetuates his work, we would actually bring heaven down. Practically speaking, sin management seems easier because essentially all that is required of us is to preach, to call out people’s errors and invite them to repentance, and to feel we’ve been faithful. But seeing suffering requires us to step into the broken, jagged chaos of people’s lives to be agents of healing and change. It’s far more time consuming and much more difficult to do as a faith community. It is a lot easier to train preachers to lead people in a Sinner’s Prayer than it is to equip them to address the systematic injustices around them.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 125

Photo: Isle of Staffa, Scotland, July 13, 2003

No Shame

Monday, August 17th, 2020

We must learn how to recognize the positive flow and to distinguish it from the negative resistance within ourselves. It takes years, I think. If a voice comes from accusation and leads to accusation, it is quite simply the voice of the “Accuser,” which is the literal meaning of the biblical word “Satan.” Shaming, accusing, or blaming is simply not how God talks. It is how we talk. God is supremely nonviolent, and I have learned that from the saints and mystics that I have read and met and heard about. That many holy people cannot be wrong.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 89

Photo: Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness, Scotland, July 11, 2003

Compassion, Not Contempt

Wednesday, August 12th, 2020

In the ninth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus looks upon the crowd gathered before him and is deeply burdened by what he sees, not because of what they are doing or not doing, but because of what is being done to them and what it is creating in them (9:35-38). He is moved in that moment, not by some moral defect but by their internal turmoil. Just as when he feeds the multitudes, Jesus is not concerned with behavior modification, as we so often imagine; he is most concerned with meeting the needs that prevent people from knowing their belovedness, and he offers an expression of God’s provision. Matthew records that Jesus, seeing those in front of him, notes not their conduct but their condition, observing that they are “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” This realization prompts a passionate, public appeal for those who would do the work of restoration and healing in the name of God. The distinction between seeing sin and seeing suffering is revelatory if we really let it seep into the deepest hollows of our hearts. Jesus’ default response to the fragile humanity before him is not contempt but compassion.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 124

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, August 7, 2020

The Eyes of Christ

Saturday, July 25th, 2020

Other followers of Jesus see something different when they look at the mess in front of them. They see pain. They see need. They see longing. They see an opportunity to bring restoration here and now. They are focused as much on this world as they are on the next. These, I’ll contend, are the eyes of Christ, and these are the eyes of those who would build the bigger table. We are learning to see differently than we once did.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 124

Photo: SchloƟ Dhaun, Germany, July 2002

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