Perfection as Compassion

In Brennan Manning’s Abba’s Child, he points out the time when Jesus asked us to be perfect, as our heavenly father is perfect. The word translated perfect is actually about being compassionate. Be compassionate, the way the father, the creator whose image we were made in, is compassionate. He gives the example of having been asked by an evangelical, while serving in the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network in New Orleans, what the posture of the Christian community ought to be toward the gay community.

His response was to cite the parable given by Jesus about letting the weeds grow up with the wheat. If we tear out of our community what we perceive to be weeds (note, I said perceive, for even Manning says we cannot know a person’s motive), we will tear out the wheat right along with it. When we presume to stand in God’s judgment seat, rather than his mercy seat, we do great damage. Ironically, after Romans 1, which includes a discourse by Paul against all kinds of sins, including sexual sins, he says we therefore have no right to judge anybody. Why would he say that unless he believed we all fall short of the glory of God just as much as we all have hope in being saved by him?

The Have-Nots

Actually, I have to say one more thing about living Much Like Jesus Led. And again I’m quoting Brennan Manning. It’s been a good season reading his books, including “A Glimpse of Jesus” which I quote below.

In any society, secular or sacred, where the haves don’t share with the have-nots, the Kingdom of Satan reigns. The presence, the Word, and the dream of Jesus Christ are neither real nor operative. They simply do not exist….

The etymology of the word compassion lies in two Latin words, cum and patior, meaning “to suffer with,” to endure with, to struggle with, and to partake of the hunger, nakedness, loneliness, pain, and broken dreams of our brothers and sisters in the human family. Commitment to Jesus Christ without compassion for his people is a lie. “The life of Jesus suggests that godlikeness means to attain a compassionate life since God’s heart is apparently thought by Jesus to be compassionate,” argues Donald Gray. “To show compassion is to be like God, like Abba. To show compassion is to be like Abba’s son.”

Something to think about is a podcast I heard from Wayne Jacobsen some time back, about the Keeper and the Kept. He stressed the importance of giving in such a way as to not keep the receivers down, while keeping the givers elevated. The kind of giving that perpetuates a feeling of inferiority, of dependence, isn’t what what Jesus had in mind, and isn’t some beautiful design for human living by God.

As I take up my paintbrush and make my life into something beautiful, as I lend paint to others in order to help them do the same, may I ever strive to help them on the path to becoming more, not staying less.