27 “But I say to you who are willing to hear: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer the other one as well. If someone takes your coat, don’t withhold your shirt either. 30 Give to everyone who asks and don’t demand your things back from those who take them. 31 Treat people in the same way that you want them to treat you.
32 “If you love those who love you, why should you be commended? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, why should you be commended? Even sinners do that. 34 If you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, why should you be commended? Even sinners lend to sinners expecting to be paid back in full. 35 Instead, love your enemies, do good, and lend expecting nothing in return. If you do, you will have a great reward. You will be acting the way children of the Most High act, for he is kind to ungrateful and wicked people. 36 Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate.
Luke 6:36 – the command to be compassionate – is in the middle of the verses that tell us to “behave as God’s children.” That means that we should love our enemies, do good to those that hate us, bless those who curse us, pray for those who mistreat us. We read that if someone slaps us, we should turn the other cheek and give our shirt if someone takes our coat. We should give without expectation of receiving something in return. These verses are the definition of compassion. Compassion goes the next step beyond empathy and is not a feeling, it is an action. It is doing something to help that other person.
Every year my husband and I watch two versions of A Christmas Carol – the George C. Scott version AND the Muppets version, usually while we wrap presents. I was wondering if the word compassion is actually in the story. I thought of places where it might be, but just Googling it, I couldn’t find it, but of course that is the main theme of the story. Not just that Scrooge may have compassion for his fellow humans, but the fact that others had compassion for Scrooge even though he was a terrible person. His nephew had compassion and came to visit and to invite Scrooge to Christmas dinner every year, even though Scrooge always declined. Bob Cratchit had compassion for Scrooge as he lifted his glass to toast Scrooge as “the founder of our feast” even though it was very unpopular with his wife and children. His wife cursed out Scrooge and said, “It should be Christmas Day, I am sure, on which one drinks the health of such an odious, stingy, hard, unfeeling man as Mr. Scrooge.” (Isn’t odious such a good word?)
Every day we have the opportunity to show compassion to others. It certainly can be in big ways, but it doesn’t have to be. It may be a prayer for someone who has wronged us but is going through a hardship. It may be putting money in the red kettle. It may be inviting someone who is lonely to have coffee or to come to a meal. It could be sharing leftovers from a holiday party with a homeless shelter. It could be offering to carry something for someone who is struggling with packages. Because we are so busy this time of year, sometimes being compassionate feels like just another thing on our to do list. Because it is Christmas, we want to be generous and do things like buy gifts from the Angel tree or make extra cookies for the neighbors, but do we do so grudgingly?
If so, we need to check our attitudes and remember the saying that “Jesus is the reason for the season.” We can look to Jesus as one who gave us the instructions on how to behave as God’s children. Let’s remember to be compassionate to our fellow humans especially in this season that we profess as being such an integral part of our faith so others may see our behavior and be drawn to it.
by Janet Waryck
For Pondering & Prayer
In what ways can we be more compassionate this Advent and Christmas season that will carry over into every season of our lives?
Prayer: God of compassion, help us to truly behave as your children. Grant us empathy and compassion so that we may be of some help to others especially during this season, but then may it spread to all seasons of our lives so that others may see you in us. Amen.