The Convenience of Compassion

Earlier this year in June, in my home town of London, a tragedy occurred in which the current death toll stands at 80 people but the reality is that many more are still missing. The tragedy I am speaking of is the Grenfell Tower fire.

But praise God, not everybody died.

I can recall sitting watching the morning news and interviews with survivors. One survivor broke down weeping as he recalled the blinding smoke, and the wall of heat; the fear he had for his child and his partner that this would be the day they were all going to die, and I was moved. I felt a deep compassion for this young man and his family, and so did the rest of the U.K.

Donations of food, of clothes, and of money began to flood in to local community centers. Churches and mosques became active in providing support and the whole national aim seemed to be that these people who have just lost everything must be supported.

But all good things must come to an end.

About a month afterwards, the mood of some within the UK shifted. Some people were no longer wondering how they could help the survivors of this tragedy but were asking why these people still wanted more help. Some people were openly saying that these survivors just needed to move on, and why are they still complaining? Why are they still so upset and angry?

Compassion was no longer convenient.

The grief, the anger, the distress of these survivors was too much and was getting in the way of others who just wanted to move on with life themselves. They wanted to move past this horrific event and be able to go back to their normal daily routines without being faced with images of people asking where their loved ones were on the morning news. They no longer wanted to read in the morning newspaper that some of these survivors were sleeping rough on the streets because they had nowhere to go. Compassion now needed to be more than just an emotional response but a conscious one, and that required too much effort.

On the Cross, after being beaten and mocked, Christ interceded for his accusers: "And Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them for they know not what they do'..." (Luke 23:34). There is no anger. There is no bitterness. Christ does not rebuke them for the torture he has endured and is enduring. Instead there is compassion for their ignorance.

As Christians, are we like a proportion of people who had enough of the Grenfell Tower survivors and their plight? Do we look at the young girl in our church who has gotten pregnant for the second time and think, "We supported you with the first, to do so with another is just too much"? Do we look at those in our midst who are struggling with addiction problems and think to ourselves, "It's been six months, you should be over this by now, I am not wasting any more time"? Does our compassion only extend so far as it does not require a sacrifice from us?

For myself I strive to be like Christ who, at the most “inconvenient” of times, chose to express love and feel compassion.

But if the day should come where my feelings of compassion should ever run out, my prayer is that God will grant me the strength to choose to be compassionate.

Tabitha Purple is currently serving as a pastor in the Netherlands Union. She also blogs on www.pastorpurple.blogspot.com where she frequently discusses practical theology and life with a creative emphasis.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8177

An “inconvenient truth” is that we Adventist Christians suffer from “compassion burnout” all to often when we discover that the object of our compassion is not going to near a baptismal tank. As Christians we should show genuine compassion for one another But should our compassion be limited only to our fellow believers? The answer is, “No.” The need of the world is for food, clothing and jobs, for those who have these things to share with those who have not Moreover, we have seen above that God was concerned even for the needs of the Ninevites, who were enemies of the Jews . As well, when Jesus was challenged by “an expert in religious law” to explain what was meant in the law of God to “love your neighbor as yourself ” Luke 10:25, he taught through the narration of the parable concerning the good Samaritan that one’s neighbor extended to anyone who has a need. When the legal expert discerned what had been taught, Jesus challenged him saying, “Go and do the same’ Luke 10:37. May we as today’s believers follow the Lord who is a great God, full of grace and compassion. May we heed Jesus’ challenge to be “good Samaritans.” May we follow Paul’s admonition by clothing ourselves “with heartfelt compassion” and so do our best to love our “neighbor.” As the hymn writer Thomas Chisholm expressed it in O to be like Thee :
O to be like Thee, full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find!
O to be like Thee! O to be like Thee!
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art!
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

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Great article. Thanks! Thing is BOTH compassion and SIN are embedded instincts in mankind. We were vreated with these qualities. SIN is embedded in the way the brain was made- the brain stem has instincts (which can be instantly activated, given certain conditions) for self-preservation, self-welfare, and self-interest by any , and all means, whether by murder, war, cruelty, torture , slavery,or any and every such actions. This section of the brain does not make rational decisions by “Reasoning” which it cannot do as such successfully. Knowing this God laid COMMANDS, which must be followed unquestioningly . Compassion is also an imbedded instinct, and is most often activated in the limbic System. It can also be INSTANTLY activated , and often serves as the primary and most influential brake on LOOMING savagery. KNowing this Jesus, who was also an expert on brain physiology, emphasised empathy, and compassion . VERY wise. However, compassion is a “wasting asset” as it were and will n"wear out’, thereby depending constant re-inforcement. Thyis is human nature. Nobody knows this more than Jesus , who even lost his cool and battered men who sought to divert religious attention from holy matters by selling the tokens representing animal totems on temple grounds to raise mponey for the NEW ISRAEL MISSION started in the reign of Herod.