Compassion & Kinship
“The trust measure of compassion lies not in service of those in the margins, but in our willingness to see ourselves in kinship with them.”
The strategy of Jesus is not centered in taking the right stand on an issue, but rather in standing in the right place, with the outcast and those relegated to the margins.
“Compassion isn’t just about feeling the pain of others; it’s about bringing them in toward yourself. If we love what God loves, then,in compassion, margins get erased. ‘Be compassionate as God is compassionate,’ means the dismantling of barriers that exclude.”
An example is given from Scripture when Jesus is in a house so packed that no one can get in. So some people rip the roof off to lower their paralytic friend down so Jesus can heal him. The focus is on getting him healed, but there is also the ripping the roof off the place, and those outside are being let in.
Anthony, 19 years old, has been on his own awhile, parents disappeared long ago, fending for himself, selling PCP to buy food and one day their conversation turns to “what do you want to be when you grow up” theme. Anthony tells G he wants to be a mechanic. G’s mechanic, Dennis, could fix any car, but rarely spoke. G asks him to teach Anthony. He smokes and listens and gives a stony stare, and finally says, “I will teach him everything I know.” So Anthony becomes a mechanic and sends G updates of his progress. One day he hands him a photograph - Anthony with a broad smile, axle grease smudged face, work shirt with ‘Anthony’ embroidered proudly on his chest. He is a transformed man, but standing next to him with his arm around Anthony, is Dennis, an equally changed human being. All because Dennis decided to rip the roof off the place. Being in the world who God is. The ones on the outside have been let in.
“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a covenant between equals….. Compassion is always, at its most authentic, about a shift from the cramped world of self-preoccupation into a more expansive place of fellowship, of true kinship.”
Gangs are bastions of conditional love - one false move and you find yourself outside. Slights are remembered, errors in judgment held against you forever… Homeboy Industries seeks to be a community of unconditional love. Community will always trump gang any day.”
Do we function like communities or gangs? Unconditional love or conditional? With grace, forgiveness and mercy or with judgment, unforgiveness, and mercilessness?
What barriers need to be dismantled in our lives?
What margins need to be erased?
What roofs need to be ripped off to let the ones on the outside in?!
What fellowship and kinship await us to get our eyes off of ourselves?
“He drew a circle that shut me out -
Heretic, rebel a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him in!”
(from the poem “Outwitted) By Edwin Markham