Friday, December 24, 2010

Peace on Earth

Christmas is here, and this is the season where you start seeing people with even the toughest shell start to soften just a little bit.  I'm still waiting for this to happen to a lady at the corner drugstore in my town, but it could happen!  As we try to teach our children to be compassionate to others, I find this is a hard concept to teach.  Part of the reason that I find this difficult to teach is because I often think of compassion as something you feel rather than something you do.  You feel bad when you see the child with the worn coat and no gloves, or the little old lady counting out pennies to purchase bread, or the homeless dog in the parking lot.  But unless you do something about it, is it truly compassion or just pity?

At Christmastime it does seem easier to show our children what compassion looks like.  It's a little easier to be kind to someone who is crabby.  We try to explain to our kids that we don't have any way of knowing what is going on in that person's life, and that we may be the only person who is kind to them that day, week, or even year! So we give that person an extra special smile, or a sweet "God bless you!" But then one day, when WE aren't having a good day, we are crabby right back.  Then we have to go back to square one with that particular lesson!  We should be compassionate ALL the time, not just when we're having a good day, right?

In another lesson of the Christmas season, we buy gifts for the less fortunate.  The kids seem to enjoy this part, and we try get them involved in the purchase. It never fails though, that we start to see them gravitate towards the things THEY would like to have instead.  I sigh a big sigh when this happens, and wonder if they really understand the concept of not having enough.  Then I yell something like, "Hey, get back here!  This isn't about YOU today!"  There goes another lesson.  I sigh again, this time about my own shortcomings in this department!

Why do I so quickly forget what it means to be compassionate?  Webster's New World College Dictionary defines compassion as "Actively sympathetic concern for the suffering of another:  mercy."  So, as I said earlier, true compassion involves an action.  Looking back at my own epic failures in this area, it makes me all the more grateful that I don't have to rely on my own ability, or inability as the case may be, to get to Heaven.  If getting to Heaven was about always doing the right thing, or being a good person, I would never get there for sure.  But because Someone has already done the Ultimate Compassionate act, we ALL have the opportunity to get to Heaven.  If you ever doubt what true compassion looks like, then look at God's compassion on our sinful world.  Even though we certainly don't deserve it, He made a way for us to live with Him forever.  God sent his Son to be the Savior for a lost and dying world.  Jesus chose to die on the cross for our sins, even though he did nothing wrong.  If you knew someone who was going to be executed for a crime, would you be willing to show compassion to that person, and if possible, take their place?  I don't know if any of us would be willing to do that.  Yet that is exactly what Jesus did for each of us!

I know that I can't remember all of the unkind, uncompassionate and un-Christian things that I have done.  I probably can't remember all of those things that I have done this week, let alone in my lifetime.  When I think of those things, I am so ashamed, and I always vow to do better.  But then I start to see all the injustices that are done to me, and I find myself in retaliation mode.  We get angry when we feel that we aren't treated fairly, when we think that people are using us, taking advantage of our kindness, or even just not responding to us when we are compassionate.  We decide that they don't deserve our kindness, or compassion.  I thank God that Jesus is my example and not I His example. When I stop to really think about what He did, I can hardly bare the weight of my guilt.  The Good News is that instead of being devastated by the wrong that we have done from being uncompassionate, selfish, and outright disobedient, we have a way out of that awful cycle of sin. We also have a way out of the punishment that we deserve, eternal separation from God in Hell.  First, we need to acknowledge that when we do wrong things we are sinning.  Once we understand this, and are sorry for what we have done, we need to ask for forgiveness for those sins.  Then, we can ask Jesus to be the Lord of our life.  By doing this, we accept the Gift that He offers to each of us, which is eternal life in Heaven. 

Before Jesus' death and resurrection, He gave us many examples of true compassion:   
  • Matthew 9:36 ~ "But when He saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them..."
  • Matthew 18:33 ~ "Shouldest not thou also have compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee?"
  • Matthew 20:34 ~ "So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him."   
So, just as Jesus had compassion, so should we.  Of course, we probably aren't going to be healing the blind, but I know that there are many other ways that we can show compassion to others.  After Jesus ascended into Heaven, the apostles continued to preach and teach the truth that we should be embracing.  They give us more instructions on compassion:   
  • Jude 21-22 ~ " Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.  And of some have compassion, making a difference."
  • 1 Peter 3:8-9 ~ "Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto the called, that ye should inherit a blessing."   
That last verse caught my attention:  "...that ye should inherit a blessing."  I think the blessing that we will receive is Peace: John 14:27~ "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you:  not as the world giveth, give I unto you...As we celebrate Christmas this year, I think of another verse that I have found to be a little confusing.  While the shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks, the familiar verses of  Luke 2:13-14 tells us about the multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."  I know that when Bible verses seem confusing to me, the problem lies within me, not the verse, so we need to study the verse a little more closely and with others verses.  Even though today's world certainly seems very far from Peace on Earth, we just need to go back to John 14:27, and we can see that true peace comes from Jesus, and we receive that peace when we follow His example as we show 'good will' toward others.

May your Christmas be full of many blessings, but most of all the blessing of Peace!

God Bless!

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