Tag Archives: jesus and compassion

Empathy betters society

By Blogger Daryl Geffken

Daryl Geffken

Value, or mutual respect, of each member of an organization is necessary because it is through our social construct that we learn. By valuing each element of a society, the ability to learn, adapt and bear significance is increased. Such value is communicated through sincerity and authenticity, through allowing for time to increase understanding, through deep listening that honors another’s perspective and encourages permission to speak freely, and a destruction of a system where certain members are deemed more necessary, more valuable than others.

In the Christian tradition, the theme of disparity appears frequently. Compassion and empathy drive Jesus’ view. Jesus upholds the principle that care for human beings is more valuable than attaining material wealth and comfort. Jesus asked, “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” (Luke 9:25). One researcher suggests Jesus finally closed the gap between the haves and have-nots: In opposition to ownership, humanity is responsible for stewardship of the earth (Lev. 25:23-24). Humanity is given responsibility to do what is best for the planet. But currently, our world community plays favorites. Anchorwoman Susan Moeller is quoted as saying, “In the news business, one dead fireman in Brooklyn is worth five English bobbies, who are worth fifty Arabs, who are worth five hundred Africans.”

Jesus condemned “the rich fool” not because he was rich but because he was so naive as to believe that great wealth involved no social and economic responsibilities (Luke 12:21). Clearly there exists a culpability of leaders within a Christian context to live into and present the servant leadership modeled by Jesus for others to consider. We are not called to lead in a dogmatic manner, but in the humility that comes from understanding the true value of people and the world’s environment. Jesus encouraged his followers to be the change they hoped for, to enact an economy that was a fuller expression of God’s will.

Jesus himself is portrayed to be a master storyteller, many times bringing his listeners face to face with the issue of disparity through the use of narrative and analogy.

One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”

The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”

The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied with a story, “A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here. Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.

The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

This is the second in a three-part series.
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Compassion is kid’s play

By Contributor Ernesto Tinajero

Editor’s Note: This week SpokaneFAVS contributors are exploring the definition of compassion. Read Monday’s panel on this topic here.

Ernesto Tinajero

Toddlers stumble. It defines them. Sometimes they get up and continue to play. Other times the tears flow. My 2-year-old is no different; he falls, bumps and cries. We call bumps bonks. With a minor bumps he will say that he got a bonk. After a particular nasty fall or bonk, his cries mutate into screams; words fail him. No words come out, only an intense growl from the depths of his tiny lungs.

My wife and I found a ritual to help calm him. We ask, “Did you get a bonk?” He answers the question with a simple word, “yeah.”

His “yeah” arises as the storm of tears and the water pouring from his eyes become still. He feels the pain, but he is not alone.

Having his parents understand his pain makes his pain bearable and his recovery quicker. The power of compassion is knowing our pain doesn’t mean we have to be isolated by it. Knowing someone is willing to walk with us during the time of pain makes pain bearable.

Compassion shares a particular facet with words like love, freedom and peace. Few people argue against compassion, freedom or peace. Yet, they seem rare in the world. We seem to be for them in the abstract, but in moments of existence when we should practice compassion, practice peace or avoid oppression, we choose the very opposite. We avoid the pain of others. We go through life with our fists up. We wish those that disagree with us would just shut up. If a person does metamorphose into freedom, love, peace or compassion then we view them as both noble and paradoxically, threatening.  Jesus ended up on a cross for advocating things we all agree are good in theory, but do the opposite in our dealing with others.

Compassion rightly occupies the center of the Christian faith. The Incarnation emphasizes God being with us. Knowing God suffers and understands our suffering forges a bond with God, making the pain bearable and our recovery quicker.

Compassion also has been at the center of criticism of Christianity over the years. Jiddu Krishnamurti, the influential spiritual writer, echoes the dominant complaint of Christianity saying it is the worship of suffering. Compassion, which means suffering with, seems like wallowing in suffering. How can this preoccupation with suffering and joining in with another’s suffering be healthy for anybody’s spirit? Would it not be better to ease the suffering of another rather joining in with their suffering? Good questions. Ones that Christians have been grappling with for two millennium.

I could try to add to this conversation, and all I have is not the grandeur of lofty ideas, but the steadiness of my experience. I have seen my son relieved from having someone understand his pain. The deepest relationships I have with my wife, my friends and my family are ones I have shared and they have shared with their pain. And here is the mystery of the cross; compassion is not staying on the cross, but the path to Easter. Or in other words, compassion wallows not in suffering, rather it goes to the place of suffering to become love. The dark does not overcome us; it turns to light.

We stumble. It defines us. Sometimes we get up and continue to play. Other times our tears flow. We need someone who will understand our pain, wipe our tears, and turn our suffering into joy.

Jesus lived a compassionate life

By Contributor Daryl Geffken

Editor’s Note: This week SpokaneFAVS contributors are exploring the definition of compassion. Read Monday’s panel on this topic here.

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.