Here and now: Compassion

September 18th, 2019

The courage born of living in the present moment is not only what we usually think of as strength, standing up to opposition, and the will will to take risks. It is also living so as to encourage others. The root of encouragement is compassion.

For people to feel encouraged, they have to feel noticed and valued. The people who do not feel this way are usually the “invisible” ones who have been ignored, marginalized and often harmed by societies and churches who, like the Pharisees, clamor for seats at the head table where they can be noticed and powerful.

But as Jesus showed, day after day, there are always “others” kept outside by the imperialistic movers and shakers. It is specifically “the least of these” (in the world’s eyes, not God’s) to whom Jesus tells us to show compassion. But in order to do this, we must see them — and where we see them is here and now.

When we ask what it means to show compassion, it is frequently summed up in the words 'being kind.' But in his letter, James makes it clear that kindness is more than words, it is deeds. Kindness is our tangible response to people in need, and even a cup of cold water counts — not because kindness is quantified, but because it is a sign that one person noticed another person, and took steps to help. These steps occur here and now.

Eugene Peterson coined what he called “the pastor’s question,” but it turns out to be a question that shows compassion to be present and active: “Who are these people, and how can I be with them, so that they can become what God wishes to make of them?” There is no single answer to the question, but if we want to live in the present moment, it is one we must ask — over and over.

Steve Harper is the author of For the Sake of the Bride and Five Marks of a Methodist. He blogs at Oboedire.

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