Compassion in hostile environments.

Grace and acceptance towards one another.

In recent weeks, there have been many conversations about what is most important in the world. For me, my Christian faith earths me in God’s love, Jesus’ teaching challenges how I live each day, and His Holy spirit encourages and remakes me. But there is also the wider question about what general qualities are most significant in human relationships, and how to care for our planet. How do we discover and then express this?

We are still in pandemic mode, with so many still getting the covid 19 virus, so many isolating, hospitalised or sadly dying. And the consequences of the backlogs in social care, education and health care especially leading to long waiting lists, lack of resources and shortages of staff. Our society seems fractured, and the pandemic has accentuated and accelerated injustice, isolation and multiple crises. We need many wise people to manage well, to direct resources, and to plan strategically.

However in much planning, there sometimes seems to be a lack of basic humanity and compassion. Souless bureaucrats have power but are not always listening to people on the ground, as to what is most needed. Fulfilling quotas and keeping to timetables, does not always reflect that we have done our best to listen to the needs of, and to support the individual in front of us.

I love this quotation from Henri Nouwen: ‘compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear and confusion and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.’

Jesus showed compassion to the sick child, the woman who was ill, the man with leprosy. He spent time with those on the edges of society, the person who collected taxes, who was a rebel, who prostitued themselves for money. Jesus had a heart and a message for all. He offered them a way back to God, to cleansing, forgiveness and a new beginning.

In our society, we have been through so much in recent years, it seems that we are exhausted, at times numb, on automatic pilot. It is easy to think that the wellbeing of others is not our responsibility. However if we follow that model then we create a harsh world where self preservation and convenience are our only concerns.

May we look to God for answers, to the life and ministry of Jesus for our models. ‘when Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd’ Matthew 9:36. May we too show compassion to others, by praying, listening, giving a safe space, and affirming and supporting each other.

Gracious God, sometimes so much has happened to us, that we become hard hearted, for we are hurting and sorrowful, and we find it hard just to survive. We protect ourselves by covering ourselves with a hard shell. Lord Jesus, look upon us with compassion, and soften our hearts with your abundant and undeserved grace, acceptance and love. Help us know the depth of your care for us, so we in turn can show similar compassion to others. Holy spirit, each morning, may you fill us with tender love and empathy for others, so we can see them through your eyes, and show compassion, Amen

We think of the lyrics of Graham Kendrick’s song ‘Beauty for brokeness’

‘ Friend of the weak, Give us compassion we pray, Melt our cold hearts, Let tears fall like rain, Come change our love from a spark to a flame’ Amen.

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