“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). This series on Lent was first posted in February and March, 2017 and has been updated. It is fascinating to observe how much more difficult our lives have become in four years. These Lenten posts will be posted on Tuesdays and Fridays.
The word compassion literally means “to suffer together.” Active compassion 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 by the Holy Spirit 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. Immigration laws, health care reforms and voter registration issues 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 fears, 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, gave rides, showed the mother how to negotiate our town and its services, helped the mother find a job, provided childcare for the children and helped them learn English. In addition, they raised thousands of dollars so that the mother could be trained, certified, and find employment in a health-related field. [Some time after this was written, they also supported the father’s arrival to the U.S. and helped him find a job.] They were confronted with a need and took action – and this action is a long-term commitment.
When Richard Foster, well-known author on spiritual formation issues, turned 75 he posted a birthday idea on the Renovare website. He suggested that readers help him celebrate by giving $75 to someone in need or 75 minutes to someone who is lonely. Do you know anyone or any organization who would be blessed by $75? Think Doctors without Borders or Compassion International or your Feeding America Food Bank. Do you know anyone who would be blessed by your attention? Perhaps COVID prohibits a visit but a letter, phone call or e-mail or a FaceTime or Zoom visit can help them feel loved and valued.
We all have been blessed to be a blessing. How can we live that out today?