Compassion renewed

A Christian Science perspective. An antidote for compassion fatigue: the Bible's assurance of God's unstinting care at all times.

In the news media today, much space is given to anniversaries – the first man in space, the Rwandan genocide, the end of apartheid in South Africa, the 12th anniversary of 9/11, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., last December.

As a result, it’s all too easy, especially in turbulent times, to feel “compassion fatigue” and take shelter under a sagging roof of inevitability or human fallibility. But there is wise perspective and healing in an observation made by the founder of The Christian Science Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, in answering a question about John the Baptist in her “Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896”: “Every individual character ... at some date must cry in the desert of earthly joy; and his voice be heard divinely and humanly. In the desolation of human understanding, divine Love hears and answers the human call for help; and the voice of Truth utters the divine verities of being which deliver mortals out of the depths of ignorance and vice. This is the Father’s benediction” (p. 81).

And what a benediction! We might call it compassion defined. The Scriptures abound in stories of compassion. Think, for example, of the father of “the prodigal son” risking alienation from his elder son while he waited patiently, then greeted and threw a party for the wayward lad who has learned life lessons in a pigsty. Or of the tenderness with which Christ Jesus touches the bier carrying the only son of the widow of Nain and restores him to life. Or of the depths of compassion and generosity (despite a breach of convention) shown by the good Samaritan in Jesus’ parable that culminates in an unforgettable, glowing message to us all: “Go, and do thou likewise.”

By contrast, the Bible is unsparing in its condemnation of the aberrant behavior that keeps surfacing in anniversary headlines: “[T]here shall be no reward to the evil man; the candle of the wicked shall be put out” (Proverbs 24:20).

Yet Bible texts assure us of God’s unstinting care at all times. He directs our lives in ways that secure hope in us and in people of all faiths, communities, and nations. Stability and predictability of good are an integral part of the Father’s “benediction.” If evil tries to shift the ground under our feet, and violence becomes all too familiar, God’s peace restores harmony, confirming that His “compassions ... are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22, 23) – a call, perhaps, to move from tears to action.

Anniversaries can become opportunities to look with fresh eyes on the ways divine Love views us with untiring compassion and empowers us to “go, and do likewise.”

From an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel.

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