Have we bypassed compassion?

Scott Cadman

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I was reading an article by Stan Grant, the current presenter of the ABC’s Q&A programme. He commented that in all the varied articles, views, and voices speaking on the issue of an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, one word was never mentioned: Compassion. He asked a very pertinent question “How can we begin to move toward healing, truth or forgiveness without first compassion?” and finished his article with a profound observation which has stuck with me. “We have bypassed compassion and moved straight to combat.”

Maybe one of the reasons we do this is because it’s hard to be compassionate. Compassion never takes the path of a quick fix. Compassion is not about us, our needs, our desire to make a difference. It is not helping the underprivileged from a privileged position, coughing up a few dollars to the less fortunate. It is, in the words of Henri Nouwen, “going to those people and places where suffering is most acute and building a home there.” Compassion requires vulnerability and a willingness to walk and suffer with others not for our benefit but for all our sakes.

It’s not inconsequential that the parables in which compassion makes an obvious appearance are the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son and the Unjust Servant. In each of these parables the one who acts compassionately has every right not to and yet each one in acting compassionately speaks deeply of God’s compassion and what it is to be fully human.

Like the Priest and Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan we can pay nothing more than a passing acknowledgement to those we need to be compassionate to. We can offer the occasional charity that does nothing more than salve our own guilty consciences. We can excuse our own indifference because those less fortunate have brought it upon themselves. A lack of compassion can so easily lead us to becoming complacent, smug and self-sufficient that we risk missing the Kingdom.

If, like me, you find yourself or your community not always as compassionate as we would like to be, there’s a lovely line of encouragement and hope for us in Psalm 145. It simply says  “The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.”  In the power of God’s Spirit may we and our churches do likewise.

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