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Godly compassion - Rev. Susan Bennett

There’s a powerful passage in Luke, chapter 7, where Jesus raises a man from the dead. It’s a great miracle, and the people are astounded and afraid. In the U.S., we don’t see a lot of that as far as I know; usually, when a death occurs, the funeral goes on as planned.

The WHY of that is a whole different question! What I want to emphasize today is a miracle that is true every day of our lives, whether we’re aware of it or not.

As Jesus approaches the gate of the town, the dead man is being carried out, and Jesus sees that the man’s mother is grieving. She was a widow, and this was her only son. And verse 13 says: “When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her … ”

Could we just think about that together for a minute? Too often, I suspect, that’s NOT the picture we have of God. We’re more likely to picture a condemning God, who passes judgment and isn’t too pleased with us and our besetting sins. Remember the bumper sticker? “Jesus is coming back – and he’s REALLY mad.”

Absolutely not in the Bible! Absolutely not the way Jesus moves in our lives –– and absolutely not the way he feels about us.

Grace and truth came with Jesus Christ. When we’re in trouble, or in sin, he’s not there to judge us. He’s there because he has compassion for us, and if we let him, he’ll help us. THAT’S the way Jesus is now, and always has been.

I honestly believe that when God looks at the world, when he looks at us, he looks through eyes of compassion. God has so much compassion, in fact, that he chose to come among us as his Son, offering that compassionate love as a sacrifice on our behalf. It’s humbling. It’s overwhelming and awesome.

God is SHOWING us how it ought to be done. What we have to do is look at Jesus, discover him in scripture, open our lives and hearts to him –– and soon, we’ll be seeing the world as he does, with that same Godly compassion.

Well, that’s the PLAN, anyway. Have you ever heard that awful saying? “Christians are the only army that kills their wounded.”

We are rough on each other! It isn’t God who shows up to pass judgment and blame the victim –– it’s us. And when we do that, one of the things it means is that we haven’t really received God’s grace for ourselves.

In God’s grace, it really doesn’t matter whose fault it is. It’s just a problem, and we work on it together.

In God’s grace, we’re able to forgive ourselves. We repent, go to God, and receive not only grace and forgiveness, but also help for tomorrow. And we can quit condemning ourselves and feeling guilty. Yes, we must humble ourselves. But what Jesus has done is make it possible for us to be forgiven and free.

If we can receive that, we can offer the same forgiveness to others.

In God’s grace, when someone is really bugging us, we look beyond their behavior to see their need. It’s very true that people who are hurt, hurt other people. And when we see that something’s wrong with someone we love (or even don’t love!), we react not in anger, but compassion.

A world of grace … I know, that’s not what we have right now. It’s ours for the receiving, though. And do you know where it begins?

It begins with you. And it begins with me. We must humble ourselves. We need to receive God’s forgiveness. Remember –– when Jesus sees you, he has COMPASSION for you, just as he did for the woman whose son had died. He knows the grief you deal with, the discouragement, the weakness. He’s filled with compassion for his children.

It could be that if we can come to believe that and begin to accept forgiveness, the first miracle will be that we also will begin looking at the world … through eyes of compassion. Was it Mother Teresa who said, “Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle,”[?].

Look at the people around you –– family, co-workers, friends, church family –– every single one is fighting some kind of battle. If we really take the time to look, we’ll soon experience that same compassion that motivated Jesus to reach out and help.

Believe that God knows you. Believe that even knowing you, everything about you and everything you are, God loves you and has compassion for you. He offers you forgiveness, a clean slate. He promises to transform us from the inside out, so that we don’t have to stay stuck in the sin that makes us feel so guilty. He has compassion for you. He is showing you how it ought to be done.

Receive his grace, and then, offer that same grace to others.

Rev. Susan Bennett is pastor of Stockbridge Presbyterian Church. She and her husband live in Stockbridge with two giant Rottweilers and a 15-pound rescue dog who is the boss of everybody.