Each year the organizers ask people from a variety of faith traditions to speak. This year I have been asked to speak on the topic from a Christian perspective.
Many times when we read the healing stories in the Gospels we hear that Jesus is moved. Jesus has compassion for the people he meets and so he responds out of that compassion.
I would suggest that compassion is one of the basic building blocks for living in community, which is why it is described as a core human value. Compassion is what allows us to share each others lives, to support each other. It is a big part of how we live out the commandment that lies at the core of Christian Ethics and Morality -- Love Each Other/Love Your Neighbour.
I think we live in a world that tends to limit the power of compassion. To live out compassion in its full form would be to have compassion for all we meet, not just those who are close to us. That is far more radical than most of us are ready for. More and more, in fact I see stories encouraging us NOT to have compassion for specific groups in our society (homeless, addicts, refugees...). I think that as people of faith we need to call for a far more radical understanding of what it means to be compassionate. After all, as Christians we follow the one who said:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? (Matthew 5:43-47)
Some years ago Karen Armstrong launched the Charter of Compassion. Initially it was a charter for people to sign and commit themselves to. Then it begot a book Twelve Steps To a Compassionate Life. And there is also a website affiliated with the project. I like what Anderson has started. Because, as I said; compassion, radical and far-reaching compassion, is a key building block for living together in community.
Hope to see you on Saturday.