Sunday,Â I mentioned an article in The Oklahoman about Amy Palmiero-Winters. Her commitment to come along side another and give hope proved an incredible picture of compassion. And then today I find the follow-up story. Reading a quote from Walter Brueggemann brought Palmiero-Winters to mind. Critics like to lambaste Chrisitans for their failed ethic. And, we indeed do give many a reason. But I wonder if those same critics get what we strive for – the kind of compassion illustrated by Palmiero-Winters and written about by Brueggemann.
Jesus in his solidarity with the marginal ones is moved to compassion. Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism, for it announces that the hurt is to be taken seriously, that the hurt is not to be accepted as normal and natural but is an abnormal and unacceptable condition for humanness. In the arrangement of “lawfulness” in Jesus’ time, as in the ancient empire of Pharaoh, the one unpermitted quality of relation was compassion. Empires are never built or maintained on the basis of compassion. The norms of law (social control) are never accommodated to persons, but persons are accommodated to norms. Otherwise the norms will collapse and with them the whole power arrangement. Thus the compassion of Jesus is to be understood not simply as a personal emotional reaction but as a public criticism in which he dares to act upon his concern against the entire numbness o his social context.