Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Christ's Work of Compassion

Compassion leads to action, but is not action.  It is identification and suffering with the afflicted.  The old saw “misery loves company” usually means we like to bring others down with us.  But we might turn it around a bit.  We might see the example of our Lord and recognize that compassion loves by joining misery.  "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15).

Compassion moves the compassionate to action eventually.  That action is often material aid, practical assistance, or comfort to relieve the afflicted, or the proclamation of law and then forgiveness and hope in Christ.  But even before the action there is the sympathy and identification.  Sometimes, maybe most times, those who are hurting need to hear and know that their hurt is valid and is also unjust.  Strangely, it is comforting to know that our mental anguish, our sense of frustration, and our anger are legitimate reactions to a sinful and unjust world.

What we are called to, and what our Lord displayed and engaged in, was not bleeding heart liberalism that knows what is best for the world, but true compassion.  He looked upon the crowd, harassed and helpless, and had compassion.  He feels their pain.  They are criminals.  They are liars.  They will kill Him.  But He recognizes that they are like sheep without a shepherd, and that isn’t right.… This leads to action.  He doesn’t simply cry in His beer.  They are like sheep without a shepherd, so, for them, He willingly becomes a Son forsaken by His Father.

Excerpted from David Petersen, "Praying for Pity's Sake," Gottesdienst, Vol 20:1

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