Forthright Compassion

By Doug Hon 05/03/2021

My community is full of dissension and anger. It’s full of triggered people who are ready to attack each other over disputed words or social perspectives. It’s like everyone has their own tribe and if you sympathize with someone from a different tribe, even if it’s on a minor issue, you have abandoned your people and sided with the enemy.

When you read these words, what community comes to your mind? It might be your online community, your work community, or even your family. Unfortunately, for some readers it might be a description of your church community. If this is so, then that church community is reflecting the wider culture and is in danger of losing its testimony as representatives of Christ.

Yet, while the aforementioned description represents a challenge for modern church, it also represents one of our greatest opportunities. Imagine what it would be like to say to a stressed neighbor or coworker something like this: “I would like to invite you to visit a group of people who have committed themselves to pursuing peace with God and people. They live this way because it is the way their leader lived. Over time, their confidence in their leader gives them the confidence to regard others positively and compassionately. Even though they hold strong convictions, you can still disagree with them and be loved.”

I wonder how many people might be interested in being a part of a group like this? Maybe our spiritual warfare should not be so directed toward the other party, but toward forces that stir one party to hate another.

James describes this community vision when he urges his readers to live a contrasted life to the fractured, triggered, culture of that day.

James 3:13-18 “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness."

Over the next few blog posts I want to explore what might happen if there was a countercultural group of people who held deep convictions, but held those convictions in such a way that they were still welcoming and considerate of others. I believe they would be like Jesus who was unmoved in his mission, yet it was said of him, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:1). Perhaps we might be able to learn more from Jesus than from our favourite political pundit.