I’m thinking a lot about compassion and strength today. We are living in times that seem so devoid of compassion. Strength is equated with power and might, in order to display strength it is often associated with the exercise of power and aggression. This is so far from what I believe we as Christians are supposed to understand and display in the world around us.
Our world has become more and more self-focused. By that, I mean everything is viewed from the “what’s in it for me” perspective. Relationships have been reduced to value judgements, how does being in relationship with someone benefit me?
What has become of the idea of common good? We all pull together for the common good, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” We love and care for each other because that’s what’s best for everyone. We express our love and concern, as we know in doing so, we are also showing love and concern for God.
There are those who don’t understand the concept of caring for others. They believe that’s weakness. Admitting one’s faults, making amends, these are all seen as weakness and cannot be tolerated. Is this really the world we want to live in? Do we really want to espouse a culture and identity that pits strength against weakness, or self-interest against compassion?
You’ll remember the story of the rich young man who approached Jesus about how to inherit eternal life. In Mark 10: 17-22 we’re told…
“17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’ ” 20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.”
I’m struck by several things in this passage. 1. The rich young man comes seeking the answer for how he can inherit eternal life. 2. Jesus gives the answer to the young man’s question, knowing it would not be easy for the young man to accept. 3. Even in the midst of the young man’s struggle and inability to do as he was advised, Jesus loved him.
From the very beginning, the young man was seeking something for himself, eternal life. His question belies his intention, he’s concerned about himself, not others. Eternal life is something we should be concerned about, but its not something we attain, but rather something freely given and experienced when we make others our priority.
When Jesus tells the young man the answer lies in his ability to place others ahead of his own self interests, Jesus knew that answer was going be difficult for the young man. Jesus knew the young man’s heart was so bound up with what was best for himself. Jesus also knew this self-interest was what kept the young man from experiencing true relationship with God. Any time we place things before people, we’ve distanced ourselves from the source of life, goodness and love-God.
Finally, Jesus knowing the dilemma the young man faced, knowing the conflict within the young man, we’re told he loves him. God wants more than anything for us to know we are loved, even when we can’t seem to do the right thing. We are loved not because of what we do, but because of whose we are.
Strength doesn’t really lie in force, or power, or might, or bullying. Strength lies in the core of our being where we are loved. God’s love for us is stronger than anything in all the universe. As we practice compassion and love for each other, we should know we are really exercising the things of God. God loves us, even when we are unloveable. Therefore, we too are to love those who are unloveable around us.
Blessings and Peace,