When Jesus said, “Love one another,” he was not suggesting; he was mandating. Jesus also put his stamp of approval on the ancient Jewish law, “Love your neighbor.”
Some religious people try to find the Good Shepherd’s “paths of righteousness” in a political party platform. This can be a venture in futility. The paths of righteousness follow the topography of compassion.
The Hebrew word for compassion, rachamim, comes from rechem, meaning “womb.” Compassion is creating space within ourselves so we can carry another person for the sole purpose of giving new life – and investing in a new world.
Let us never discount the cumulative impact of compassion. Small acts of concern and sensitivity can bring about transformational healing in people’s lives and promote societal wholeness. When we create space within ourselves so we can move beyond disparity, competition and self-absorption, we are able to nurture new life within us and in the world.
“The Good Shepherd’s ‘paths of righteousness’ follow the topography of compassion.”
Before these months of physical distancing and sheltering in place, our nation was already practicing another form of distancing – political distancing. We were not living together as “one nation.” We were living at the level of spiritual subsistence. We could not collaborate because we were addicted to competition. People of faith allowed a mean-spirited political climate to dictate how we would relate with one another. We rationalized politically and economically as self-centered voices spewed lies and shouted divisive messages.
Some of these demagogues, tyrants and hate-mongers wielded weapons while others just weaponized social media. Too often, as truth-tellers in Washington, D.C., were ridiculed or fired, followers of Jesus were silent amidst the polarization.
Then, when the pandemic emerged, it seems everyone was eager to proclaim messages of “love one another” and “love your neighbor.” This coronavirus turned all of us into collaborators of compassion against a new enemy – COVID-19. When this pandemic ends, will we continue to bear witness to Christ’s message of compassionate depth in a shallow world? Will we create space within ourselves for other persons? Will we even love our enemies?
As states begin to take “re-entry” steps, the familiar polarities of our political-distancing culture are resurfacing. We must no longer avoid conversations about the injustices of incarceration, access to information, refugees at our borders, public school education, LGBTQ rights, economic disparity, healthcare, racial and gender inequities, immigration, limitations on automatic weapons, climate change and more.
In coming months, will we turn toward one another? Will we refuse to re-start political-distancing as we move beyond physical-distancing? Let us practice the Way of Jesus in our circles of influence. Let us “love one another” – our neighbors and our enemies. Let us be compassionate. In this way, we will move beyond spiritual subsistence.
One way we can create space within ourselves is to invest a few minutes each week trying to understand more fully how people are forming perspectives that differ from our own. Consider tuning in to another news outlet to better understand your neighbor who is different from you. Taking 15 or 20 minutes a week trying to understand viewpoints counter to your own can be an investment in compassion.
According to allsides.com, the most divisive news media outlets on the far right include Fox News, CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network), NEWSmax and Breitbart. The most divisive news media outlets on the far left include MSNBC, The Nation, Mother Jones and Alternet. News media outlets that are most centrist include Associated Press, NPR (National Public Radio), Reuters and Bloomberg.
As we begin these months of re-entry and transition, let us do what we can to create a new world by turning toward one another with concern, sensitivity and compassion. Let us consider prayerfully, act generously toward and advocate for the health-care professionals, first responders, grocers, elderly, dialysis and chemo patients, custodians, postal workers, teachers, delivery persons, garbage haulers, impoverished families without a food pantry or health-insurance, the homeless shelter workers, the social workers, volunteers and others who’ve had no break amidst the relentless pressure and anxiety – and their families – who have carried exponential stress without breaks or respite. Let us express grace and patience. Let us be faithful as we encourage and embolden one another.
“When this pandemic ends, will we continue to bear witness to Christ’s message of compassionate depth in a shallow world?”
Through compassion and sensitivity, we invest in life-giving power. This is a divine partnership in creative transformation and redemption. As we incarnate compassion, we move beyond physical distancing by remaking the nature of physical closeness and reap the harvest of spiritual vitality.
Read more BNG news and opinion related to the coronavirus pandemic: