Faith Matters

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COMPASSION: a needful thing

“As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” -James 5:11

Compassion.  Now there’s a cool word.  A powerful word.  A word that brings us joy rather than trouble.  Compassion shows up and a sigh of relief follows.  Its power is not just experienced in the good deed or kind word attached to it; compassion is a life trophy in a time of need provided by those we know well and even better… those we do not know at all.  In the big picture of life… it is a needful thing!

The Bible reminds us… “we love others because God first loved us.” (1 John 4:19). That’s a good start as love, then, is not something we just have or pick off a tree or find on the sidewalk… love is a gift from God that we nurture, expand, perfect and share.  It is at the core of what I believe.  Faith matters.  It does… and love that is organized and focused is even yet more powerful.  Thus, as compassion is fueled by love and as much as it shows up in anticipated places it smiles in arenas that often surprise us.

But, it’s not always easy.  Consider what the late Fr. Henri Nouwen said,

“Let us not underestimate how hard it is to be compassionate. Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to places where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken.”

And as much as compassion is good for those receiving it, its greatest quality is that we find out how fully and truly human any of us can be when we express that kind of love.  It’s one thing to console our child with a skinned knee from a bike mishap; but it’s another thing for a police officer to perform CPR on a man wrongly shot by his partner.  At one level it is a personal response like the priest and Levite who chose not to come to the aid of a man dying in a ditch… even though most bystanders thought they would… yet the sworn enemy… A Samaritan… lifted the man from the ditch and carried him to safety.  “Send me the bill”, he said.  Now THAT is a compassion to be noticed!

I don’t think its unusual to find the word, ‘compass’ right there at the beginning of this powerful term.  Love does have direction.  It flows from God to us and through us toward those around us… in all four directions.  Compassion knows its purpose.  Compassion understands itself to be the salve which comes to the aid of our brokenness and unexpected moments, keeping the fabric of humanity intact.  We might even call it the necessary ‘safety net’ to catch those who have fallen through the cracks of life.  Where might we be without it?

These are good days for all of us to be compassionate.  Our pace of life has slowed down enough that we are able to notice other’s need of compassion and even maybe has given us the space to consider those who have been compassionate to us in our lives and to take a moment to offer a word of gratitude and thanks.

St. John of the Cross once wrote, “May all find compassion in you.”  Word.

Compassion.  It is a needful thing we all desire in this moment. May we all find ourselves surrounded by it!

Rev. Dr. Brian K. Gigee is a long-time resident of Pearland, the pastor at New Life Lutheran Church at 3521 E. Orange St. in Olde Towne Pearland.  Follow him on twitter at  Your comments and/or questions can be sent to [email protected].

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