In Eat this Book, Eugene Peterson teaches us to chew on a passage of scripture, digest it, and then put it to use in practical ways. Our Christian fathers and mothers called this process Lectio Divina. In this passage we are reminded of God’s mindset towards the world – and our responsibility to adopt that same mindset.
PSALM 116: 5-6 (CEB) and I Peter 3: 8 (NIV)
The Lord is merciful and righteous;
our God is compassionate.
The Lord protects simple folk;
he saves me whenever I am brought down.
. . . be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.“
These two scripture passages hi-light how God looks at us and how we must look at others: through the eyes of compassion. The entire arc of the Biblical narrative is the story of God’s compassion for God’s creation. God is a just God, yes. But God’s response to the pain of God’s people is compassion.
In the Gospels, Jesus treats everyone he meets (sick people, mentally disturbed people, sinful people, servants, his sometimes arrogant, bumbling and traitorous disciples) with compassion. He describes God’s character through the story of a father whose son has squandered his inheritance. When the son finally returns, desperately hoping that he can serve as a servant in his father’s house, his father welcomes him with compassion and forgiveness. In a real encounter, Jesus looks upon a rich man, who couldn’t give up his treasures to follow him, with eyes of compassion – even as the young man walks away.
We are made in the image of God. We are called (and able) to demonstrate the same compassion for others that God shows us. We are called to be ready to show each other kindness and to desire their good.
Writing about the Sermon on the Mount, Dallas Willard points out that there are some people that we might think do not deserve our compassion: “the physically repulsive … the bald, the fat, and the old … the flunk-outs and drop-outs and burned outs. The broke and the broken. The drug heads and the divorced. The HIV-positive and herpes-ridden. The brain-damaged, the incurable ill. The barren and the pregnant too-many-times or the wrong time. The over-employed, the under-employed, the unemployed. The unemploy- able. The swindled, the shoved aside, the replaced… .” (The Divine Conspiracy, pp. 123-124). If we are honest, we know that we subconsciously judge some people as unworthy of our compassion. How can we become able to see others through God’s eyes? How can we become compassionate toward people we think don’t deserve our compassion?
♥ Richard Foster suggests that we ask ourselves: “How can I make the kingdom of God available to individuals who are humanly hopeless? Then as you go about your days, learn to take time to point out the natural beauty of every human being” (Renovare Weekly Digest for October 16, 2017). And then show them a heart of compassion.
♥ Peter tells us that we should be ready to set ourselves aside and make others the focus of our attention. We are to lift up one another, “to disappear in our efforts to support each other” (www.bibleref.com). Compassion and humility enable us to do this, if we choose to do so. Lift some one up by your compassion this week.
♥ Often it is easier to look with compassion on others than it is to look at ourselves with compassion. When you are tempted to put yourself down, look through God’s com- passionate eyes at yourself. When you struggle to believe in your own value, imagine the smile of Jesus on your life.
MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT
“Mother Teresa’s message was, ‘Calcutta is everywhere, if we only have eyes to see.’ Pray that God would help us see our own Calcutta: the pain, poverty, loneliness, and ostracizing that happens all over. Each of us encounters situations that demand both prayer and activism. Pray that God would give us the eyes to see the pain of our neighborhoods” (Shane Claiborne in Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation for July 2, 2017)