April 2, 2019
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved,
Compassion and Justice
Compassion is a form of love. We usually associate it with a situation when someone is suffering. The Samaritan had compassion on the traveler who lay wounded at the roadside. Jesus had compassion on the blind man and on the people who were like sheep without a shepherd.
In situations like these, we find it easy to have compassion. We run to help, we donate for the tsunami victims, we hug the child that tripped and is bruised and crying.
But it gets more complicated when there is a moral issue involved:
A boy has kicked a ball and broken a window. He feels bad.
- Do you hug him or scold him?
A beggar stands outside the church on Sundays.
- Do you ignore him or talk to him?
The refugees, often Muslims, just want to have a better life here in rich Switzerland.
- Do you vote for fewer refugees or do you engage in outreach?
In each of these cases, we are challenged to practice both love (compassion) and justice. To only hug the boy and tell him it’s not so bad does not teach him the necessary lesson that he must bear the consequences of his actions. To only give money to the beggar supports the presumption that he is needy. To only accommodate the refugees may make them dependent and does not address the root of the problem.
Just as love and truth cannot be separated, neither can compassion and justice. They are in a way subcategories of love and truth.
As a father and a schoolteacher, I learned that compassion comes before justice. Clothe yourselves with compassion. (Colossians 3:12) What we wear on the outside is first seen by others. It speaks for who we are through the love of Christ.
But teachers are loved best when they are fair (just) and caring (compassionate). You can hug the boy and say, “Well, that wasn’t a good idea,” and when he has calmed down, talk about how to fix the damage. You can tell the beggar that the IPC office has Migros vouchers, and that we don’t give money to organized begging. You can support the integration of refugees while at the same time support politicians who work toward justice in international affairs.
Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to clothe myself with compassion, which is both your love and your justice in action.