Barb's Space

Observations about life, family, church...anything else that is on my mind from the perspective that God rules, no matter what

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Location: Indianapolis, IN, United States

I am a 66 year young woman who has changed much in the last few years. I'm single again. I changed jobs twice (learned new skills), had a serious stroke in 2008, "retired" and after getting better started taking up new interests, and am continuing to get more fit. Some things have matured. I've enjoyed watching my three guys grow into men I respect and am proud of. One waited 11 years to have his first birth child. Today I'm a grandma of six (four boys and 2 girls between two families) with a third girl on the way. I have learned to love Jesus even more, and I have regained my sense of adventure. Someone said, "The best is yet to be."--I believe it, if I keep an open mind and heart and keep growing and walking with God.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Compassion, or Feelings Part 2

I have to follow up on something which looks right now like it will be the subject of several posts. Being a student of human nature, I have a natural bent toward psychology and sociology. Also, as a Christian for more than thirty years, I have found I have another interest that not all Christians have (it just seems to be part of my "gift-mix"). I am interested in theology and how all three "ologys" fit together in a very practical way. In fact, I would say one of my life-goals is to become as much as possible an "integrated" Christian. For more on what being an "integrated Christian" means to me, please take this link to a poem on my web page. (I did a study--I explain there--and out came a poem! :) )

Anyway, I have been thinking a lot on feelings (see my very first blog post with that title) and how they tie into compassion and how compassion ties into mercy. According to the online version of the American Heritage Dictionary, compassion is defined as deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it. It says a synonym for compassion is pity.

The Bible says something about compassion in the life of Jesus:
Heb 4:15-16 NIV--15 For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have One who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Right here I see a very real link between dealing rightly with my own feelings, having compassion and then showing mercy. According to the verses, a natural outgrowth of compassion is an ability to share grace and mercy with others. But if I have stuffed my feelings and it has made me either physically sick or bitter, I cannot have compassion.
If I do not care for myself enough to respect and deeply acknowledge my own feelings and then deal with them rightly, how can I or why would I have compassion for others? I don't have the energy or inclination.

Instead, I will think others are either getting what's coming to them because of their actions and/or choices or getting what's coming to them as a result of living in this fallen world, sometimes expressed as "That's life." While either idea may be somewhat true at times, those attitudes almost automatically deny compassion and its expression which is mercy, because to have compassion, I have to first be deeply aware as the dictionary says, of the suffering of another, and secondly I have to care about that suffering deeply enough to move me to action.

That attitude (of people getting what's coming to them for any reason) also is wrong from another angle. It is judging others. Jesus tells us two things about judging (these are His direct words):

Matt 7:1-3 NIV--1 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"

John 7:24 NIV--"Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment."

Is Jesus saying two contradictory things here? I don't think so. I believe He's saying to judge rightly, I must fully acknowledge my own condition of sin--which includes two things--one, that I was born a fallen creature and two, that I can easily fall into sin. (Other scriptures shedding light on this include: 1 John 1:8,10 NLT--8 If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts. Rom 3:23 NLT--For all have sinned; all fall short of God's glorious standard.)

Only when I see myself rightly and agree with God's view, can I get to a place of humility, which says my sin is every bit as sinful in God's eyes as yours, and also that at any time I could fall into sin (sin being when I am falling short of God's glorious standard), whether in thought, word, or deed. One of the things that gives unrighteous judgment its power is the ability I have as a fallen human to think you are worse than I am--and that what's easy for me should be easy for you. That puts me above you (though falsely), and causes compassion and its resulting acts of mercy to elude me.

One of the ways to get to humility and compassion is to meditate on the Law of God and its relation to me, asking God to make it real to my heart. James 2:10,12-13 NIV says regarding that subject, 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

I want mercy to triumph over judgment in my life, and in everyone's life. That is God's heart. I admit I don't feel it when I'm hurting or angry, but I still want the work to be done inside of me that will get me back to that position. I will further add, if mercy doesn't triumph over judgment in thought, word, and deed, how is Christianity any different than any other religion?

1 Great Ideas:

Blogger SweetChicken said...

There is one thing that I would like to emphasize about the definition of compassion. If you look up both pity and compassion, you will find that both mean "a feeling of sympathy and sorrow for the misfortunes of others". But compassion goes a step further. Compassion is pity, coupled with the desire to do something about it.

This is an important note. If you read the New Testament, you will find that nearly everytime that Christ felt compassion, he felt compelled to do something about it, and acted on his feelings.

Pity is what the Levite and the priest felt for the man lying in the road. "Oh that poor man." Compassion is what the Samaritan felt for the man. He felt the pain, and a desire to relieve the suffering.

Don't stop at mere introspection. Don't just say what you want to be a part of your life. Don't just feel what others are feeling. While that is nice and a good goal to strive for, a better goal is to strive for true compassion -- stop thinking, stop writing, and go do something about it.

March 06, 2006 7:53 PM

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