Advent Devotionals: Friday December 4

COMPASSION: LOVE WITHOUT BORDERS
“If we want to learn the great art of love from Jesus,
we might begin by being attentive to the many small acts of gentleness, kindness, and courtesy that graced his most ordinary interactions with other people.”
(Chris Webb, God Soaked Life)
Jeremiah 31:18-20, Mark 12:30-31, John 13:34-35, 1 John 3:16-17

WHAT MATTERED MOST TO JESUS?
He clearly placed love for God and love for others at the very centre of the life of God’s kingdom community. Whatever we understand by the idea of “mission”, it must be seen as an expression of our primary vocation to love.

When wondering how we are to live the way of Jesus, we simply need to look at him to find our answer. Jesus’ modus operandi was compassion and love. When asked which commandment was most important, Jesus replied,
“Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. And the second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”
These weren’t just nice words, Jesus lived by these words. He regularly removed himself from the crowds to spend time with his Father. His primary goal in life was to do the will of his Father. From there, love flowed out of him toward others everywhere he went. Everything Jesus did was for the sake of his Father and for the sake of others.

Jesus was moved with compassion when a leper came to him begging to be healed. Finding Peter’s mother-in-law sick with a fever, Jesus touched her hand and healed her. He touched two blind men’s eyes and healed them. He took the hand of a little girl who had already died and brought her back to life. In the gospels, we read story after story of Jesus, moved with pity and compassion when people came to him and he healed them, usually with physical touch.
But not just physical healing. How about the woman caught in adultery? The angry crowd dragged her and threw her to the ground in front of Jesus, demanding that she be stoned to death! What did Jesus do? He counters their demands with, “Let the one who is without sin throw the first stone.” As the crowd dispersed, Jesus offered this woman grace and forgiveness. He instructed her on the better way to live because he deeply cared, but he also gave her the gift of dignity. Jesus took notice of her and who she was under the surface. He saw her brokenness and offered her healing and life.

Have you ever been in need of compassion? It is a powerful and humbling thing to be given grace. Compassion breaks down walls, crosses all borders and weaves its way into the hearts of the “least of these”. Love shown through compassion heals.
“To consider what would have happened if the world’s millions of followers of Jesus had taken all the passion, time, and energy that went into seeking converts and poured it instead into the simple and
painful business of doing what Jesus actually did and taught his followers to do: loving people who may never love them back.”
(Chris Webb, God Soaked Life)

Let’s not stop here. Let’s take a look at everyday life. What if love took on the act of simple courtesy and kindness? Just the simplicity of saying “please” and “thank you” to a store clerk. How about opening a door for someone or giving them your seat? What about a smile or even asking a stranger how their day is going?

Importantly... when you are the one for whom the door is being opened or a seat being given, how far would a thank you go? Rather than suspicion - if I say hello back are they going to want to have a whole conversation? Or offence, “Do I look like I need help?!” What would it look like to receive kindness?

Followers of Jesus bear his image. We are his ambassadors. Living the way of Jesus requires us to go the extra mile, to abide by rules or to be inconvenienced for the sake of others. When Jesus arrived in Bethlehem as a baby, his life had been disrupted. When he was growing up and began his ministry, his life was inconvenienced. He was mistreated and misunderstood. But Jesus was drawn to the underdog. He was compelled by love to show compassion. And we need to be as well.
“It was clear that this “new commandment” to love would find practical expression in deep humility and acts of profound service. Self-giving love would be the hallmark of the kingdom”
(Chris Webb, God Soaked Life)

The coming of the Messiah brought a new commandment and a new kingdom which we are called to put into action, remembering that God loved us first and the only appropriate response gratitude and love toward others.

REFLECTION:
  1. Have you ever been “the least of these”? Have you been in need and someone blessed you and you had no way to repay them? What was that like for you? Write about it.
  2. Have you received compassion when you should have been given judgement?
  3. Who in your life could use some compassion and kindness? How can you bless them?

PRACTICES:
  1.  Morning Prayers of praise and gratitude. (Suggestion: Write out your prayers)
  2. Evening Prayers - Examen
  3. Pray the Soren Kierkegaard prayer (Dec 1)
  4. Scripture Reading - Read John 8:1-11 through the eyes of compassion. What stands out to you?

  1. CHALLENGE: Let’s make every Saturday a day of hospitality and kindness. Throughout your day
    active seek out ways to bless others - friends and strangers. Take note of their reactions. Pay attention to how strangers respond to your kindness.

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