By Contributor Daryl Geffken
Compassion is sharing life with others, collecting their stories to the point that we walk with them rather than talk about them. We must connect ourselves with the lives of others — others we would typically not choose. I believe our compassion grows in relation to its direct contact with suffering. We must find ways of engaging and deeply listening to the stories of others and then finding creative ways to allow those stories to find a larger voice.
I believe Jesus refocused people on what was important to God, not what had become acceptable to them. Jesus and his followers frequently challenge an attitude of privilege. Compassion and empathy drive Jesus’ view. He upholds the principle that caring for people is more valuable than attaining material wealth and comfort, asking, “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” (Luke 9:25). Jesus finally closed the gap between the haves and have-nots: In opposition to the concept of ownership, humanity is expected to be responsible for stewardship of the earth (Lev. 25:23-24). It is given responsibility to do what is best for the planet and all who inhabit it.
One of Jesus’ main emphases was to treat people with value. Theologians have worked to establish Jesus’ authority and divinity. He is a necessary and unique part of the triune God of Christianity. Jesus clearly asserted his own authority and status as son of God. Yet he also defined his identity as a servant, giving his life for others as the “son of man.” Jesus demonstrated the rule of God always opposes the other gods and powers that seek to enslave humans.
Ultimately, Jesus’ authority is based upon his death on a cross, suffering as the servant Messiah prophesied by Isaiah. Jesus’ kingdom was one based on authenticity and compassion, rather than oppression, which was demonstrated through welcoming love and liberating service to others. Reading through the Gospel narratives of Jesus’ teaching through word and example confirms Jesus held a high regard for the value of people. This foundational value affected not only his actions, but his expectations of those who follow him as well. He was clear in challenging his audience to live in holistic responsibility to others. From this, it can be shown that Jesus desired a more egalitarian society than he encountered. It can be argued that this is applicable today.