benevolence, Christianity, compassion, guilt, heros, human-rights, hungry, jake kaufman, kingdom of Jesus, lower class, mission statements, pity, poor, religion, soup kitchens, spirituality, upper class
Compassion is all the rage in today’s Christianity.
Just think for a moment of how often we talk about compassion. We shout it from the pulpit, sing it in our songs, and blog about it. It’s flaunted in the mission statements and couched in the tag lines of our churches. We schedule events so that we have more opportunities to be compassionate. We build food pantries and serve at soup kitchens.
Why all the fuss? Because often we are told that the more compassionate we are, the more people we will win for Jesus.
Maybe it makes me a bad Christian, but I have a problem with all of that. The problem is this: when compassion becomes a strategy, it ceases to be compassion. It becomes pity. When compassion becomes a promotion, it ceases to be compassion. It becomes a gimmick. When compassion becomes a requirement, it ceases to become compassion. It becomes guilt.
There’s a difference between convenient benevolence and grace-driven compassion.
The truth is, there are lots of reasons that we build food pantries and serve at soup kitchens. Sometimes it’s because we feel a bit guilty if we don’t. Sometimes it’s because we’re trying to level out the karma on our side. Sometimes it’s because we’re trying to fit in with the right crowd at church. Sometimes it’s because we want to be more like Shaine Claiborne. Sometimes it’s because we want to print it in our bulletins and advertise it on our websites. Sometimes it’s because we are looking to get some kind of experience out of it.
Perhaps it’s the cynic in me, but I actually think that it’s rare that our compassion is driven by a heart for the underprivileged, neglected, and forgotten about among us. That’s why is so remarkable and startling when we come across such a person.
So maybe it’s time for Christians to stop being compassionate.
The truly compassionate ones are the ones who don’t seek medals and accolades for their actions. They don’t ask for something in return. They aren’t kind because they have to be. They are the ones who fight behind the scenes, who sacrifice their livelihoods, who live in ways that the rest of us don’t understand so that someone else might benefit.
Perhaps this is what Jesus was getting at when He said to a rich, young leader, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give them to the poor. Then, follow me. I tell you this; it is very hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus wasn’t advocating socialism or encouraging everyone to live in hippie communes. He wasn’t looking for the leader to start programs for the lower class. His message wasn’t even about the love of money and the perils of the upper class. Hidden in his words, as always, was a much deeper, much more meaningful message about the kingdom.
Pity, guilt, gimmicks and competition have no home in the kingdom of Jesus.
May we serve, yes, but not because we think we are the heroes. May we give, yes, but not because we think that our wealth deserves the headlines. May we feed the poor, and clothe the naked, and visit the imprisoned, and rescue the trafficked, and give clean water to the villages…yes, but never because we want to write blogs and make converts.
Let us simply love, fully and beautifully. And may that love drive us to do all of the above with courage, ferocity, and humility.