Monday, 9 November 2009

The Radical Counter Intuition of Compassion

Have just been for an evening down to Wellington College to hear Baroness Cox talk about the humungous ongoing needs in Sudan, (Spot the ironic juxtaposition of locations!) which a friend of mine is aiming to go some way to meeting by giving up a year of her life to go and live and work out there.

Talking with my friend Sitho on the way home, (always an animated conversation, whatever the topic) we were saying it is easy to get carried away with feeling the need to drop everything and go out there!

But it struck me, from one of the comments that the Baroness made during the evening that this kind of fervent self-flagellation and pledge to "surrender my body to the flames" and go out to these desperate parts of the world is not the point.

She said, I paraphrase:

Build a hospital and you save a few lives, educate a community and you save many more.

Off the back of that comment, I found my thoughts spinning off into asking, why stop there? Why not take it a step further and say: live radically here (caught up in the mad matrix of the west) by raising up and supporting people who will go and so by various means touch many more people still, with the love of Jesus? Why not embrace the call (put so powerfully to by Ronald Sider many years ago) to live simply that others may simply live?

The call to live radically here in Britain is no easier to the call in the Sudan. Going with the flow is easy in any setting. Perhaps the choices for going to the Sudan are more stark, but it is easier not to forget the suffering when your mud wall barely muffles their screaming from the shrapnel wounds. It's much harder (and therefore requires a different kind of radical) to keep the poor and needy in your focus when, (like in the West) they are invisible to you, and the few times you do see them, it's in the context of reactionary emotional voyerism as provided by the media.

A friend of mine once said that if God can't trust you as a cleaner, why do you think they should trust you as a missionary? If you ain't bustin a gut to live radically for Jesus now, what makes you think that a change of location and a few more emaciated children clinging to your feet will really stir your spirit. At best, you'll get grumpy and resentful at the little you can do, at worst, you'll go into emotional meltdown.

When it comes to fostering compassion in me, I think I need a change of location. Jesus disagrees and says I need a change of heart.

The faith that stirs to the kind of action that counts does not rest so much on location and worldly sympathy as it does on faith and Godly compassion.

Compassion, especially in this age, is not limited by circumstance but by desire.

Lord, let me plod on in this kind of radical daily living however it looks.


Anonymous said...

i like ur thinking. i sometimes struggle with the idea of people going to far flung places to help, when there are so many in need right here. even in the church...

it blows my mind


Richard Walker said...

You're right there. That said it is all about calling and obedience, not needs.

Anonymous said...

yea totaly, but it is in obedience that we share the gospel (which is also a need) and there are so many people in reading who dont know the real jesus. i over heard a few young people at college discussing god and joined in and its clear they have no real idea who he is. satan offers so many options for people, especially the young. what are we doing here? are we doing enough? i know im not, but im starting to do more.

i pray we can start living by faith and really reaching these guys. we have all the tools, we are on the right team and the holy spirit goes with us


Richard Walker said...

I wholeheartedly agree!