“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set youfree from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2 (NIV).
My family really enjoyed watching the Bible Series on the History Channel earlier this year. I couldn’t believe how the stories I’ve read my entire life really came to life when I saw images versus just reading words on a page. I didn’t realize how difficult and turbulent the times were that Noah, Abraham, and Jesus lived in until I saw them play out on the screen.
I fell in love with the actor who portrayed Jesus. Not as, “I’m attracted to him because he’s gorgeous” (definitely not as handsome as my husband), but I was incredibly impressed with the way He portrayed my Savior. When I looked into his face, I felt the kindness, strength, and gentleness that I believe Jesus Himself gave to all with whom He interacted. I could truly feel the gift of His love emanate through the eyes and hands of the actor through the screen.
The times we live in currently are unstable as well. We have wars being fought internationally and nuclear threats from other countries. People within our own Country are suffering terribly through poverty, disease, unemployment, and the devastating after effects of natural disasters. If that’s not bad enough, our Country is divided on some pretty major issues: What constitutes when life begins and the institution of marriage to name just two of the “political wars” we are debating.
As a result of studying my Bible and seeing the stories come to life through the Bible series, I stop and think how Jesus’ response is the best one for every situation that we face. He never condemned people. He didn’t agree with all of their choices, but He never condemned the person making those choices. He couldn’t condone the way certain people chose to live, but He never criticized the person herself. Jesus approached all people, regardless of their status in life, with compassion. He would first reach out and touch them physically, but that wasn’t the end. He wasn’t finished until they were satisfied emotionally and spiritually as well. He never forced Himself or His beliefs on others, but willingly gave of Himself to those who sought after Him. He chose to meet all their needs in a way that left people feeling better for having encountered Him.
I then take that thinking one step further and wonder how I can apply that to my life. What if we showed more compassion toward others who didn’t hold our same values instead of silent (or outright) condemnation? When we accept others as the uniquely created individuals that they are, that doesn’t automatically assume we agree with everything about their lifestyle. It means we accept that person at his core.
Reading God’s Word, especially the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) give a very clear description of how Jesus handled the “outcasts of the day.” He didn’t shy away from them, didn’t try to be politically correct, didn’t stand and debate their lifestyle. No, when a leper was walking down the street, “Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man” (Matthew 8:3, NIV). He didn’t wait to see what the disciples were going to. No, He chose to be the example of compassion, not condemnation. And as a result, the man was immediately “cured of his leprosy” (Matthew 8:3, NIV).
That got me thinking. I can’t miraculously heal people the way Jesus does, but I can make a difference in my community with my attitudes and actions. What exactly would that look like if I was choosing to model Jesus’ response to people who feel as though they are outcasts of society or whom others might choose to condemn?
I can start out simply by looking around and attempting to meet their physical needs: Offering a ride to someone walking in the rain, buying some extra groceries for someone who needs a little extra to make ends meet, or offering to babysit for the single mother “just because.” Once I have accomplished that aspect, I can add emotional and spiritual compassion along with the physical acts. Some examples could include baking a pan of brownies for someone who is lonely, calling a friend who needs some encouragement, or meeting someone for coffee and letting them talk through grief or pain, choosing to listen without offering advice.
What if everyone starting implementing these changes in their lives? Can you imagine a world where people are accepted for who they are, where those who can step up and offer physical help to others suffering or emotional support when they see a need instead of expecting or assuming someone else will take care of it?
With Jesus as my example, I hope to be quicker to offer compassion to those who need it. I want to eliminate all forms of condemnation from my vocabulary, my body language, and my actions. If I truly want people to see Christ when they look at me, then compassion needs to become my second skin. That’s my goal and I plan to continue to implement it, one act at a time.
Copyright: 2013 Cheri Swalwell