This post was written as a Reflection for our MCC mini-retreat in Srimongol, Bangladesh on October 10-12, 2007.
Jesus' compassion is something I see often lived out in this country and in the people around me. Compassion is intricately tied to what many refer to as the "golden rule", to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and to love your neighbour as yourself". Because to love your neighbour, to truly and fully love your neighbour requires more strength and self-control than we could individually attain. To love your neighbour requires that you care for them like your own family, and this is compassion; caring for the world as your family, as Jesus makes it very clear who our neighbours are, in the parable of the good Samaritan.
Compassion as Jesus demonstrates is not charity and it is not equality. It is important to note that Jesus had abilities we obviously do not possess and so it is unfortunately not possible to go about healing all mental and physical disabilities we encounter. But, that does not stop us from trying. Jesus' compassion is not charity, it is selfless love. Jesus does not give to the beggars, he heals the source of their infirmity. And, in this example shall we not also look to the source of the issue to deal with the painfully visible results. How can children living with curable diseases receive those cures and lead happier, less painful lives? How can people join together as brothers to unleash their bonds of poverty and hunger? How can we support them in these challenges? For that is compassion, and that is love. One unfortunate reality of these challenges which is particularly obvious in Bangladesh is that success is not equal. When to love a neighbour may mean providing a job to the least in society, and thus showing them compassion; then walking down the street seeing more and more people who would be so very deserving of that same compassion. Thus, the challenge is to find a way to show these people compassion, with the obvious limitations in resources we will eventually have if we are continuously financially generous. And even Jesus did not heal all of the lepers or heal all of the blind, how did Jesus choose those lucky few? However, the important aspect is that Jesus did not heal everyone, and neither can we; and as hard as we try, we will never be egalitarian or impartial. As such, we must not use this as an excuse to limit our compassion, because our compassion must belong to everyone. Therefore our compassion must be more than just good deeds, it must include an emotional, and relational component.
The most important aspect to remember about Jesus' compassion is that it was not financial, it was sacrificial. It was sacrificial in all ways imaginable, right down to his life. If Jesus was willing to sacrifice the pleasure, time and his own life out of love and compassion; then should it not be our challenge to love in that capacity? To love our neighbours and make our life about compassion is to love completely, not only the individual, or the community, but also our Creator. For to love the created is to love the Creator. If we all personally strive to love and show compassion to others in our daily lives, that compassion will only multiply time and again when we gather together with the compassion of Christ.