1st May - Thought For The Day - Compassion
Words by Bev Jones
Some time ago on Countryfile, there was a report on shepherding, and as part of that report, an article on sheep behaviour. Not really the sort of thing that would normally interest me, but the report was actually a fascinating insight into how sheep interact with each other. One of the things that they focused upon was the way that the flock gather together to protect each other from predators such as foxes.
When there’s no shelter, and no shepherd around, the sheep will huddle together in a circle, usually in a corner of the field, with the ones on the outside facing the field to so that any enemy can be swiftly detected. Those on the outside are in effect protecting the inner sheep from attack as the outer ones will be the ones who are attacked first. It all sounded quite straightforward and understandable until the reporter pointed out that the outer sheep were the weakest, most vulnerable, and the strongest, healthiest sheep were actually in the middle of the circle so that they would receive the greatest protection. The most helpless sheep are the ones who are sacrificed in order that the flock can survive. Whilst that should fill us with horror, I wonder how true it is of society in general?
Photo by Christopher Burns via Unsplash
Steve Chalke the founder of Oasis says:
‘You can judge how civilised a society is by the quality of care it extends to those who can contribute least.’
Jesus was always to be found on the margins of society. Not expecting folk to enter the temples but going out to where they were and meeting them in the midst of their life – in the mess and the heartbreak and the chaos. Spending time with those whom other people had no time for, showing a level of compassion that drew them in and made them want to spend time with him - connecting with people at their point of need and inviting them into a relationship with him. If as a society and a church, we are to extend care to those most vulnerable (or valuable) then we need to ask God to break our hearts with what breaks his, and then be willing to go to whoever, and wherever he leads us.
Photo by Biegun Wschodni via Unsplash
Henri Nouwen tells us:
‘Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, 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.’
And that means being willing to share our vulnerabilities rather than trying to impress with our strengths, connecting with those who we do life with, just as God connects with us through Jesus.
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gift into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard - things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. Galatians 5: 22 MSG