Category: Compassion

Two words can say much — ‘You OK?’

Driving to work in the darkness of the early morning hours, two words captured my attention – “You OK?”

A business owner spoke to National Public Radio about his family-owned business declaring bankruptcy in 2012. The Charlotte Observer published a short story online, and Rodney Player’s phone started ringing.

Player’s son, who was away at college, saw the news. “He knew things were difficult for us,” Player said, and then his sentence kind of fell apart. He seemed to be saying the news surprised his son. Then, “I think the actual filing hit the public airwaves and, you know, he sent me a text, a simple note – you OK?”

This question speaks volumes. A young man is off at college and reads that the family business has filed bankruptcy. You wouldn’t fault the son if his first question was something like, “What does this mean for my education? Do I have to come home?” And maybe he thought such things, but the question he asked his dad conveys such a deep love and appreciation – “You OK?”

The story noted that Player was not OK. “In fact, even now when he talks about the bankruptcy, his whole demeanor changes,” the NPR reporter says. “He looks down. He starts fiddling with things. He gets quieter. He told me that day … he filed for bankruptcy was one of the worst days of his life.”

“You know,” Player says, “your friends, your neighbors, it’s difficult to walk around town when you’ve got something like that hanging over your head.”

And his mom, Frances, who had to sign the bankruptcy papers as well, had an especially hard time with it. “She had helped start this business 60 years before. She still worked there four days a week in accounts receivable, and for her, bankruptcy was just not something you did.”

Francis struggled with the decision and “lost a lot of sleep over it.” It was “not easy to get up and go to church that Sunday morning” after the news broke.

In this terrible moment for a family, a young man off at college wanted to make sure his dad was OK. My kids are like this. They care about me, and it means so much.

I sold our family land last year – the land my dad loved so much. It’s hard to fail at something important to your dad. I can imagine that Rodney Player struggled, in part, because he had presided over the failure of the business his dad had built. Besides the emotional challenge, there was the very real financial challenges.

Then, “You OK?”

Bankruptcy laws in the United States give businesses a second chance, and the Players’ business has rebounded and is paying off creditors from the past.

Second chances are a very good thing – in business and in life. They give us hope and new opportunity. God modeled this with a thing we call grace.

Accepting grace, whether in business or in life, can be difficult. It’s not easy to face our failures and our struggles. I can imagine God, in speaking to one’s spirit, asking, “You OK?” And it’s also very nice when another person, especially someone we love, asks, “You OK?”

(This post originally appeared on the Texas Baptists web site.)

 

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Getting the Bible’s big picture — compassion

Growing up, I heard one basic message in church — get saved, get others saved and live right. Most of the emphasis in my Southern Baptist churches was on the first two, and when it turned to the living right part it was generally about personal morality — don’t smoke, don’t drink and don’t have sex until marriage.

I’m thankful to those churches for leading me to a faith walk with God through Christ. I’m thankful to those churches for leading me to care enough for others that I would share my faith. And I’m thankful to those churches for giving me those solid moral moorings that helped me stay out of trouble, not that I did it perfectly.

While affirming all of that, I must say with equal honesty that I didn’t latch onto a deep concern for the marginalized of this world. It may have been taught, but the primary bent was toward the three emphases noted above. We heard less about compassion for the world than passion for reaching the world — helping those other people who were not good church folk like us to become church folk like us.

As I read the Bible now, I get a growing sense of just how much I missed earlier. God cares deeply, very deeply for the people who are not like me — the hurting. It’s all over the book.

The big picture of Scripture is about God and humanity reconnecting. You can say that sin is what has created the disconnect. But what sin? The sin that really seems to have gotten God’s attention is in relation to the injustices toward the marginalized of this world — the people who do not have power, wealth or other entrees to privilege.

That is the sin we should be battling most, but in my tradition that often has not been the case. Looking beyond my roots, however, I am encouraged that Baptists have been concerned for justice and compassion — Martin Luther King Jr. and T. B. Maston come quickly to mind.

So it was with interest today that I encountered an article titled “God Commands Compassion, Not Evangelism,” by Greg Garrett. I wish he had not pitted compassion against evangelism because I believe evangelism done right is motivated by compassion, but Garrett has some great points to make. Here’s one:

“The larger message of the Bible is about participating in the reality that God wants to bring into being to replace the sinful mess we have made, and a large part of that participation is about reaching out to those who are in need. God’s advocacy for the downtrodden against the powerful is clear throughout the Hebrew Testament. A wonderful way to read the Old Testament’s sections on the patriarchs, the subjection of their ancestors in Egypt, and their deliverance in Palestine is through the lens of God’s choice of the poor, the outcast, and the unexpected to be the recipients of His love and grace. Youngest children (not the oldest sons, expected to inherit everything), women (of no social value), and exiles (not even part of a society) are chosen by God for special roles.”

If we can just get this thing about compassion for the hurting, then we can get a lot right about following the God revealed in Scripture. I’m reminded that there is faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.

The importance of compassion

I’ve recently been going through magazines that have stacked up the past few years in a desire to get them to the recycle bin. One of those mags is the March-April 2005 edition of Utne.

In an article titled, “God Alert: Karen Armstrong Wants to Warn the World of a Looming Religious Storm,” author Michael Valpy reflects an interview he had with Armstrong regarding religious fundamentalism.

One quote from Armstrong especially caught my attention. “Compassion is the key to religion, the key to spirituality. … It is the litmus test of religiosity in all the major world religions. It is the key to the experience of what we call God–that when you dethrone yourself from the center of your world and put another there, you achieve extasis, you go beyond yourself.”

I did not grow up being taught that compassion is the key to my religion, but I do think this may be right if you genuinely seek to follow Christ. Love for God and for others provokes a compassion that is not natural. We could, therefore, call it supernatural, which again connects to Christ.

The importance of compassion

This weekend I’ve been going through magazines that have stacked up the past few years in a desire to get them to the recycle bin. One of those mags is the March-April 2005 edition of Utne.

In an article titled “God Alert: Karen Armstrong Wants to Warn the World of a Looming Religious Storm” author Michael Valpy reflects an interview he had with Armstrong regarding religious fundamentalism. One quote from Armstrong especially caught my attention.

“Compassion is the key to religion, the key to spirituality. … It is the litmus test of religiosity in all the major world religions. It is the key to the experience of what we call God–that when you dethrone yourself from the center of your world and put another there, you achieve extasis, you go beyond yourself.”

Valpy then said Armstrong quoted the Buddha, who said, “First, live in a compassionate way, and then you will know.”

I really did not grow up being taught that compassion is the key to my religion–Christian of the Southern Baptist variety–but I do think this is right if you genuinely seek to follow Christ. And the good thing about compassion is that it inoculates you against the hideous effects of religious fundamentalism, which Jesus battled and which Southern Baptists followed.

But in saying that, maybe I’m not being compassionate toward Southern Baptists. Compassion, in seems, is not an easy thing.