“Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.” Romans 2:1 NKJV In my first blog post in this series I declared my position as a Christian. In subsequent posts I have endeavored to express my views of compassion from a rational position, with a desire not to alienate anyone seeking hope for compassion in their relationships. It is of course my faith that instructs my view of humanity and my hope for compassion in community. I believe true compassion possible thru faith and as we continue forward in this exploration of compassion, I must demonstrate how my faith in Christ instructs my understanding. I find inspiration in the ultimate gift of self-sacrifice made by a man I believe to be God incarnate. In English He is referred to as Jesus Christ, but the name may not be as important as what He sought to teach us. When I look to the numerous teachings of biblical text that somehow convince “Christians” to preach hellfire and brimstone, I find myself battling against discouragement. I don’t believe Christ sought to compel others to faith through fear and judgment. Instead He sought compassion; Jesus instructed us to love our enemies, and to pray for our persecutors. He declared that above all, we are to Love God first, and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. In the book of Romans, Paul expresses the Gospel message of Christ beautifully; possibly better understood as the Good News of Christ. He begins in chapter one by outlining a list of possible sins that were publicly celebrated in Roman culture at the time and follows it immediately by expressing how we are all guilty of sin. In the original epistle, there was no separation by chapter, so the beginning verses in chapter 2 are simply a continued line of reasoning that flows from Paul’s recognition of sin in the world. In light of a reality where we are all guilty of hurting each other, we find that we are not in a position to judge the motivation and heart of others. Instead we are instructed to seek equity as far as it is within our own power. We must recognize, of course, that in this broken world we are incapable of mending every relationship; That is not our role. Jesus demonstrated that leadership requires self-sacrifice. But he was not willfully ignorant of the plight of others. The famous story of His overturning tables and brandishing a whip in the Temple of Jerusalem paints a vivid picture. While He instructed us to prioritize love above all else, this story demonstrates a line in the sand. While we pray for our persecutors, we cannot standby and approve of abuse by ignoring it. We must stand up against those who seek to take advantage of others. Compassion seeks equity and recognizes that when we allow the willful abuse of our neighbors from the comfort of our living rooms, we are sacrificing that pursuit of equity for the sake of comfort. So what does this conflict mean for us? Remember the rule of compassion: to seek equity with other members of humanity, while collaborating to build better systems to support and care for each other.
I suggest we begin with a focus on the relationships where we give the most. Support those who support others, rather than spending energy to support those only seeking to support themselves. Be discerning. Not every man on the corner asking for a handout is interested in taking advantage of you; Many are simply interested in acquiring enough resource to make it through the day. Not every bargain deal was resourced ethically with fair trade; Many are the result of opportunistic abuse in the pursuit of the all might dollar over the health and well being of others. Spending more for products ethically sourced thru fair trade demonstrates a desire to be self-sacrificial. When we seek more meaningful investments of equity into the lives of other individuals, we demonstrate the very heart of God. Compassion requires the sacrifice of self in the pursuit of equity. God does not seek personal benefit, rather He sacrificed everything so that we might learn to care for one another with our very lives.