On the Corner
BY ROBERT DOCTER –
How many compassionate tears does this
perishing world get from you?
William Booth asked that question in his annual message to soldiers during the first decade of the 20th century. It’s a question all Salvationists need to ask themselves today. It seems to me in this initial decade of the 21st century we need to find a “compassion index.”
Are we as Salvationists growing in compassion moved to action by it or are we slipping? Are our faces grim and dry in the presence of suffering or misfortune in others? Does there still resonate within us at 120 beats a minute the music of mercy in march time? I wonder. Do you?
Booth must have sensed some kind of trend line in the soldiers to whom he addressed his message. Oh, he must have thought “… if we could only measure the tears.” Today, on many faces, poised in empathic pain above epaulet-bedecked shoulders, tears still flow and lubricate the love among us. Other faces reveal less feeling more thinking and a quick desire to delegate the compassion to someone else. Still others turn away, tickled momentarily only by meager guilt.
How many compassionate tears does this perishing world get from you?
This little spinning hunk of dirt and water we call Earth is “in a whole world of hurt.” External matter does not cause the problem. This world’s hurt doesn’t arise from asteroids or strange looking beings from outer space. It’s not even global warming. No, we add to that hurt as we embrace growing cultural norms that crush the compassion within us. It’s an inside problem. It’s internal. You’ll find the blockage somewhere on mankind’s spiritual dimension. It’s self-centered. It’s another word for sin. It’s unlove uncaring ungrace.
How does crushed compassion reveal itself?
How tolerant are you of creeds, belief systems, or cultures different from your own? Intolerance defines bigotry. It’s a hard word. Bigotry screams, sometimes in loud voices — at other times it spreads its vicious virus in whispers — sometimes, without words its cruelty floats in cesspools of subtle contempt, its odor spreading on winds of wickedness.
Bigotry says: “I am better than you you are my inferior. My wealth is the measure of this. My customs are superior to yours. My beliefs represent what is true, yours are false my opinions are right, yours are wrong.” Bigotry reveals no tolerance no acceptance of diversity among our common humanity. Bigotry discriminates. It assumes a difference and makes negative judgments on the basis of that assumed difference.
Sadly, religion seems to play a significant role in breeding bigotry when faith differences appear among intolerant people living in fairly close proximity. The Jews and the Arabs have been engaged in their ferocious family feud since the days of Abraham. The Central African Hutus and Tutsi elevate their unexplained hatred to a bloody genocide. The Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland are only beginning to identify the way in which human practices based on perceived difference have led to bigotry over the history of their tiny island.
We humans seem to have a very difficult time dealing with perceived difference. We continue to ignore the reality that we are much more alike than we are different.
Another word for compassion is clemency a willingness to forgive past wrongs to resist the temptation of judgmentalism to show mercy. Inclement weather is unpleasant. Some of us breed our own storms suffer the pain of our own unwillingness to forgive reveal an ungracious and disgraceful absence of any quality of grace. We place squarely upon our shoulders the burden of past wrongs. Throughout our lives the burden grows as we add to it myths of assumed motives, perceived meanings of unspecified intent, or fictions of vague and indefinite reasoning to explain our pain. The burden expands and becomes so heavy it consumes us. Too often, we only struggle to keep it balanced rather than find ways to lay it down.
A willingness to forgive begins the process of pushing the burden from us of achieving reconciliation. I believe one cannot forgive someone who does not seek it. Grace, however, requires us to communicate a readiness and a willingness to forgive. There are occasions when a person is hurt as a result of misperceived intent or massive human frailty within someone else. The other party, for any of a number of reasons, might be unaware of the delivered pain. We have an obligation to reveal to that person that they have hurt us to check it out in order to provide opportunity for reconciliation. It won’t happen without communication.
The measurement of our tears on behalf of a perishing world begins with an assessment of our bigotry and our willingness to seek reconciliation.