Sunday, August 24, 2014

Where is the Compassion?

In a previous post I describe the process I go through when writing poetry. Not a lot of head - mostly heart. This post, though not poetry, is affecting me in a similar way. There is a cry in my heart: Where's the compassion?

I have a friend. A guy who has opened up his heart to me. Allowed me in to share in his pain. Funny thing is, I'm not the "first" of his friends during this season of his life. He has had others who were there to be with him farther back in his story than I have been. But the difference between them and I, is that I'm still here to share in the joys as well. They are noticeably absent - and missing out.

I don't want to share here too much of his life. That's up to him. What I can do is take you back several years and share something similar in my own.

Some of you may be aware that Lisa is not my first wife. I call her my "final" wife - because, no matter what happens, I'm NOT doing this again! I was married previously for nine and a half years. This was shortly after I got out of the Navy. How to describe the relationship? To put it simply: the first three years were hell. I thought I had done something terribly wrong and lived in a continuous state of guilt/pain/anger. After that first three, I realized that I did NOT do anything to bring this on. Being a Christian, and coming from a family where "divorce" was not an option, I stuck through it for another six and a half - best described as riding a roller coaster: but where a roller coaster is hills and valleys, this was plateaus and toilets (toleration and misery). I finally had enough and the marriage ended in divorce.

I'm not kidding about the above. When I told my parents that I was getting divorced, instead of trying to talk me out of it, they said, "We were wondering when you would come to that point." They knew it all along.

I had a friend that allowed me to open up my heart to him. He shared in my pain and confusion. We had many long talks over the bible and what the "right" thing to do as a Christian was. Part of it, to be honest, was for him to come to grips with my divorce as a Christian as well. I loved him for being there for me. And I loved his wife for letting her husband spend so much time with me.

After being divorced for awhile, I met a wonderful young lady named Amy. She was sweet, funny, intelligent, and a gorgeous redhead! The only thing she wasn't, was a Christian. She and I became an item. She even moved in with me. And my friend - my confidant and support - abandoned me. I was living in sin, and therefore he was justified in walking away.

Amy and I were together for quite awhile, though eventually we moved in different directions and she moved out. (I'm thrilled to say that one day she called me to let me know she had become a Christian. We never got back together, but that was great news. I'm still thrilled for her - even after all these years.)

Keeping this brief, I met Lisa at our 20th class reunion and we eventually started hanging out, then dating, then engaged. During this time I would mention my friend. I reached out at different times, in different ways (Christmas cards, text messages, and the like), and sometimes at the prompting of Lisa. She saw the longing in my heart to get back with him, and wanted to see that happen. Over time, he and I did eventually bridge the communications gap and even started to mend the tear in our friendship. Happy to say that he and his family were present at our wedding, and we've maintained a friendship ever since. Part of me knows it is not on the level it used to be, and who knows if it will ever get back to that again. Maybe it shouldn't. It's probably more reciprocal now. And I'm just happy that he is there.

Again, the cry in my heart is "Where is the compassion?" Going back to the friend at the beginning of this article, I'm thrilled to be sharing in the joys of his life. And I ache with him over the absence of those others who have abandoned him.

Is it justifiable for a Christian to abandon someone who is "in sin"? I know there are plenty of verses in the bible that talk about not even eating with someone who is a sinner. Many of those verses are pulled from the epistles (those falling between Romans and Jude). That is also the area of the best buffet-style Christianity. You know, pick a little of this, and ignore what you don't find convenient. If we took everything contained in the epistles literally, we'd have a very different Christianity today. And to be honest, believing that much of what is written there has heavy cultural influences, I'm glad we don't. Regardless, it is in there where the justification comes from.

(Unlike some of my other blog articles, I'm not going to quote long passages of the bible. I'm going to give you the references and trust that, if you are interested, you'll look them up yourself.)

Looking at the life of Jesus sometimes gives us very different perspectives than the epistles. Some things are because Jesus was living "under the law" - the time prior to his crucifixion and resurrection. When the "rich young ruler" asks Him what he must do to gain eternal life, Jesus doesn't give him a tract with the quick way to salvation printed on it. He doesn't tell him to simply believe on Him. He tells him to obey the law. In the book of John, Jesus also gives us something that my friend's "abandoned ones" missed: compassion.

Look at John chapter four. This is the passage where Jesus' disciples leave him sitting by a well while they go to buy some food. While there, a woman of Samaria (a people known as "dogs" to the Jews of the day) shows up to draw water. Jesus asks her for a drink, which spawns a conversation of real/spiritual and the "right" places for worship. At one point Jesus tells her to go and get her husband. She responds that she doesn't have one. Jesus acknowledges her honesty and points out that she has had five husbands, and is currently living with someone who is not her husband.

My New King James Version has a heading over John, chapter four: "A Samaritan Woman Meets Her Messiah". Before I started writing this I realized I had never noticed that before. The passage implies that she has met the Messiah, but never outright states it. The best part, and the reason I bring it up, NOWHERE do you see Jesus shun, condemn, or abandon the woman because of her being a Samaritan who is living with someone not her husband. What you do see is Jesus showing what is most important to her: compassion. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of times where Jesus tells the person to go and "sin no more". Not here.

Why do I consider this compassion? I'm reminded of a friend that was at our 30th class reunion. She introduced us to her "cabana boy". She said that she has had two failed marriages and has come to the conclusion that marriage and her just don't get along. She has been with her "cabana boy" for nine years. Sounds like what they have is working for her.

I've heard many times over the years that the reason she was at the well at that time of the day was because she was living in shame. Possibly a prostitute. Once again, I've read this many times and I don't see that. Makes for good preaching, but maybe - just maybe - it was just what was working for her.

Jesus looked past the "sin" and showed a compassion that brought salvation to not only this woman, but a large part of the city.

There's a lesson there for each of us.

© Emittravel 2014

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