Jesus is compassionate.
Compassion. It literally means ‘to suffer together’. Compassionate people work to end suffering and bring hope to the world.
In 2010, I met many people who had experienced suffering beyond my comprehension. People who had fled civil war, ethnic and religious persecution, pain, hardship, even torture and the death of their loved ones. They were from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iran, Burma and Iraq; they were Muslims, Christians, Atheists and Buddhists. They had arrived in Australia on crowded boats without visas. They came asking for help.
And I was forced to ask myself: how should I respond? I knew what I felt, seeing those people face to face, was compassion. But as a Christian, I wondered how God would feel about this.
It might seem strange that God might feel anything. Isn’t He distant and cold, only worried about whether people obey his rules?
Well in the rule-book of Deuteronomy, it says that God
“defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you giving them food and clothing.” (Deuteronomy 10:18)
To the prophet Malachi, God warns that he will judge
“those who defraud labourers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me.” (Malachi 3:5)
Jesus tells a story about how his people should have compassion for those who suffer – read it here: Matthew 25:31-46
As you can see, love is Jesus’ number one priority. And he wants his people to have compassion on the hungry, the thirsty, strangers, and those in prison. We so quickly forget these people, or think of them as a ‘problem’ in need of a ‘solution’ – but Jesus doesn’t.
Australians are trying to figure out how to treat asylum seekers – especially those who arrive by boat. Should we let them in, or lock them up? Should we try to deter them from getting on dangerous boats? I don’t have a simple answer to Australia’s border protection policy. But I do know that Jesus wants us to have an attitude of compassion to people in need – to treat them with kindness and dignity – no matter who they are or where they are from. Because Jesus is compassionate.
Johnny Sharpe is Youth & Young Adults Minister at St Stephens Anglican Church, Belrose