“This Lent needs to be not what you will give up, but what you will live for. Not how you might demonstrate your piety, but how you might live in true obedience to God. Not what you will prove, but what reproves you” (Karoline Lewis in Working Preacher (Feb. 26, 2017).
The word compassion literally means “to suffer together.” It is the feeling that arises when we are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to go out of our way to relieve that suffering. Some of us have the gift of compassionate service. Others of us, while feeling empathy, may need to be prodded a bit to actually do something to relieve the pain of another.
This season of Lent, the need for acting on our compassion is all around us. We need to educate ourselves about the political issues of the day and how they impact the lives of those around us. Immigrant bans and health care reform are not just policies; they are calls to action for Christians. Foreign policy is not just for wonks and nerds; it is essential to how our country speaks to global issues. Christians must take their active compassion to the political arena.
Jesus’ life was the model of compassion. He went out of his way to speak about and relieve the suffering of others. But as, Bryan Morykon says,
“We must see Jesus always speaking with the fire of pure love burning in his eyes. He did nothing simply to provoke, nothing from fear, nothing to prove anything, nothing out of woundedness. All was from an unshakable awareness of His belovedness and for the eternal good of the other” (Renovare Weekly Digest, March 10, 2017).
We need to burn our fear, our need to prove ourselves, and our woundedness in that “fire of pure love” and be willing to risk action. What suffering have you been confronted with? What action are you motivated to take? I have several friends who have been responsible for bringing a mother and her two young children from South Sudan to our town. They found housing, helped with furniture and clothing, give rides, show the mother how to negotiate our town and its services, provide childcare for the children and help them learn English. In addition, they raised thousands of dollars so that the mother can be trained, certified and find employment in a health-related field. They have been confronted with a need and taken action – and this action is a long-term commitment.
Richard Foster, well-known author on spiritual formation issues, turns 75 soon. He has a birthday idea which was posted recently on the Renovare website. When asked how he wants his birthday celebrated, he suggested that we help him celebrate by giving $75 to someone in need or 75 minutes to someone who is lonely. (I have added two other possible categories: people who are ignored or below society’s radar. This experiment runs through April 25th. Renovare will collect your stories (call 1-844-RENEW88 to record yours) and share them in a future podcast. Or share your stories on this blog by commenting on this post.