For the Bride: Compassion Rising

Today, I end my comments on the practice of non-judgment.  Like the earlier posts on the principle of love, I am sure there is much more that could be said about this important topic, but I will let what I have written suffice for now.

Douglas Burton-Christie rightly shows how in early Christianity love and non-judgment combined to produce compassion (‘The Word in the Desert,  pp. 282-291).  This is a good place to conclude our examination.

Much of the Verba Seniorum contains sayings which show directly or indirectly that fulfilling the law of love and practicing non-judgment create a tender heart, marked particularly by compassionate attitudes and actions. For the early Christians, it meant bearing the burdens of others (Galatians 6:2) and being patient with the burdens of the weak (Romans 15:1)–what John Wesley would later call, “Watching over one another in love.”

In our day, Martin Luther King Jr. incarnated the same disposition, making “a tough mind and a tender heart” (‘Strength to Love,’ pp. 1-9) a mainstay in the movement for the equality of all people.  This combination characterized the early Christians–something John Wesley would later call the conjoining of knowledge and vital piety.

Douglas Burton-Christie summarizes all this by writing, “The final word in desert spirituality is tenderness.” (p. 287).  We can pray for no finer quality of life than this.  Compassion is what characterizes the life of a disciple, and it is what the world is longing to experience from Christians, who claim to follow Jesus who, when he saw the crowds, had compassion on them.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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