Tag Archives: compassion

Minnesota Nice

Minnesota Nice

There is a term called Minnesota Nice, which refers to the kindness of those who live in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Anyone who has met someone who comes from that state understands. Minnesota Nice people are friendly, welcoming, giving, easy to talk to, humble to a fault and willing to help with whatever you may need. I have encountered some Minnesota Nice people who took the time to take me on their boat, show me lighthouses in their area, and serve me a “hot dish” dinner. (A hot dish is what I would call a casserole.)

The idea of Minnesota Nice struck me as significant because it is an attribute that is so engrained in our society that it has been given a name. Would nice be the first word that comes to the minds of people in our society when they think about Christians? Maybe, but not necessarily. How much is our kindness and love toward others engrained in our community’s collective concept of the Christian person? Many other attributes may come to mind before nice when it comes to people’s perception of the quintessential Christian.

Which begs the question, “What should the Christian be known for?” The answer comes from St. Paul who said to the Ephesians, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). We as Christians are called to be beyond just nice.

We are to be tenderhearted as well, Paul says, which is translated from the Greek that means “well compassioned and sympathetic.” We should genuinely feel for others as Christ feels for us.

And we should be richly forgiving, not being judgmental in any way. People can tell if we are being phony. And showing forgiveness “from the heart,” as Christ did for us, cannot be faked.

Jesus told us, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). The things that we say and do should not be said and done so that others can say how nice we are, but they should be said and done to point others to God and to God in Christ. We are not put on this earth just to be nice, but to be a reflection of the heart and mind of Christ to all the world. So be Christian Compassionate as well as Minnesota Nice.

I See You

I see you

A common catch phrase in pop culture these days is the comment, “I see you.” It is used as a way of simply saying, “I recognize your recent accomplishment.” But it has recently taken on the connotation of “I understand where you are coming from,” “I realize what you are going through,” and even “I notice you as a potential love interest.”

Many times Jesus “sees” people where they are in significant ways. In John 1:47-49, we read, “Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael said to him, ‘How do you know me?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’ Nathanael answered him, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’” Jesus sees Nathanael as a good disciple even before Nathanael knows it. Nathanael responds with faith and gratitude. Jesus sees each of us the same way. He knows the potential within us to serve him even before we do sometimes. It is our role to respond with excitement to help others see what Jesus sees in each of us: devoted followers of him.

In another place in Scripture, Jesus “sees” people in another way. In Mark 6:33-34 we read, “Now many saw [Jesus and the disciples] going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When [Jesus] went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.” Jesus sees that the crowds who ran to meet him are lost in their faith and he sees that they need help from him for spiritual direction. They are literally chasing him down for guidance. And Jesus obliges by teaching them through his Word. Jesus sees us searching for meaning in our lives too, and he stops to teach us through the words of Scripture and through our prayers with him. He reminds us that we who are lost have been found in him. We see him now as our Leader and Teacher and Friend.

Thank God today that Jesus says “I see you!” to us and means it!

Love One Another

reaching out

On the night that Jesus was betrayed, knowing what laid ahead for him, he gave a new commandment: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another (John 13:34). Jesus is talking here about no ordinary love. He is talking about a love that is grounded in what he was about to do on the cross. It is a love that is selfless, sacrificial, deep, complete and life-saving. Loving others as Jesus has loved us is not something that comes naturally to us as humans at first. We as humans at first want to love others only to please ourselves and satisfy our own needs and desires. But Jesus shows us a love that puts the other first and ourselves last. We find in Jesus a way of love that reaches outward and does not expect anything in return.

In Scripture we read, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). We were enemies of God when Christ died for us. We did not deserve his love, yet he loved us by giving his all for us. Jesus tells us elsewhere in Scripture: Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44). That is the Jesus kind of love we are expected to exhibit in our lives. It is a love that goes against conventional wisdom. Yet it is a love that we have experienced and a love that we (and Christ) want others to experience through us.

In these contentious times when people seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum in nearly every aspect of society, it is time for us to let the love of Christ enter into the picture. Let us show compassion in a Christlike way to those who differ in their opinions than us. Let us show care as Jesus would to those who are against us in any way. For Jesus died for all and his love for all knows no bounds. Our love should be just as boundless.

Hesed

hesedThe Hebrew word hesed is translated lovingkindness in most Bibles, but it is so rich in meaning that the word cannot be adequately described in English. Other translations have used the words covenant faithfulness and steadfast love. It is a type of love that is quite literally beyond words.

In a new book from InterVarsity Press called Inexpressible: Hesed and the Mystery of God’s Lovingkindness, author Michael Card explores what the word means about God’s character and how the word relates to God’s people.

What it reveals to me about God’s character is that he loves us beyond measure, beyond what we can even comprehend. It is a love that can never be matched fully in human terms. It is a love that will stop at nothing to care for us and protect us.

That is the reason why hesed is most fully realized in the incarnation of Jesus. Jesus is hesed in the flesh. And he went to the greatest lengths of all out of God’s great love for us to save us. He went to the cross to suffer and die and sacrifice his very life for us all. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends,” the Bible says (John 15:13). But God’s hesed went beyond even the grave when he rose Jesus from the dead on Easter morning.

Now that Christ is alive and alive in each of us, God’s hesed has transformed each of us to live a new life of deep and divinely inspired love, care and compassion for others. We love as we have been loved: with our whole selves, giving our all for one another in the name of the God of hesed. That is the beautiful plan for us from the heart of our God.

Mission Statement

missionEvery once in a while, a Bible verse keeps popping up so often in our day-to-day experiences that you can»t help but think, “God really wants me to hear this verse!”

The verse that has been appearing frequently in my life in the last weeks is Micah 6:8:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

Several writers of our daily devotionals at Creative Communications used it in their reflections. It was the reading in church a few weeks ago. And it is the theme verse for the year at the parochial school associated with my parish.

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