When was the last time we were moved? The last time we were brought to tears or anger over injustice. Not injustice we felt had been perpetrated against ourselves, but against others. When was the last time that your heart jolted so much that your body had to follow? That’s the sort of movement I’m talking about. I mean the sort of movement that stopped you dead in your tracks andbroke you out of your repetitive cycle of hum drum existence.
Because in that moment you were alive. You were doing more than taking up space and sucking in oxygen. You were connected with the deep web of humanity that exists all around you. In that moment as you looked outward, allowed your heart to jump and your emotions run raw even if just for a second you were fulfilling part of your calling on earth. To love.
I recently preached on the story of the Good Samaritan. After 2 weeks of wrestling with this story about a man traveling on a deserted road who stumbles across another human being who has been beaten and discarded for dead there is one line that continues to haunt me. “After seeing the man, he was moved with compassion.” That simple sentence has had me up late at night. It has stirred deep introspection as I have been forced to ask myself when I was last moved with such compassion to help another person.
There are plenty of times on a regular basis where I feel sorry for people. There are plenty of times where I shoot up a quick prayer before moving on and forgetting. There are moments where my heart is stirred with sadness for a person or people group, but after that momentary release of emotion I go back to everyday life unchanged.
A fleeting emotional connection with a person or issue is not compassion. An intellectual recognition that someone else has been wronged and that such a circumstance is unfair is not compassion. Compassion is not measured in tears. Compassion is not a matter of throwing money at a problem hoping that it will go away. Compassion is not fueled by your own sense of guilt and need to earn brownie points with God. Compassion is not a bandaid when the person in front of you is half-dead. Compassion is not convenient. Compassion is not about being recognized by the world.
Compassion is when you are so radically moved by what you see that you dare to dive into the messiness anyway. Compassion is personal. Compassion is physical. Compassion is intimately connected with generosity. Compassion keeps working when things are hard and you don’t “feel like it” anymore. Compassion recognizes that it is not superior. Compassion dares to really see people.
I don’t know about you, but I both long for and am absolutely scared to death to be a compassionate person. I want to be alive. I want to be moved. I don’t just want to coast through life going from one dull thing to the next. I don’t want my life to be a never ending series of distractions from actually being moved and digging in and learning how to love people. The scary part is that I know living such a life will be incredibly difficult, demanding more of my time, energy, and resources than I want to give. It will require me to learn to die to myself and actually love my neighbor. It will require me to re-organize and re-prioritize all the goals and ideals that I have so neatly built up for myself. Compassion moves you. It takes you on a journey. It does not allow you to stay the same old person. It pushes you outside of your comfort zone and forces to you to see and experience and face the pain and suffering of the world both outside and within. It is not a journey that happens quickly or easily. It is not a glorious and celebrated life that the world will look upon one day and admire.
So tonight as I share these thoughts I confess that I have not been a person of compassion. I have not had eyes to see the wounds of those around me. I have not been moved in body and soul, and I’m afraid to say that I even want such an existence. Hopefully, admitting this struggle is the first step in letting go and learning to see and be moved and live a life of radical compassion.