Love: The Key to Compassion

Love, love, love, love:

Christians, this is your call;

Love your neighbor as yourself

For God loves us all.

We sang it in a round and we sang it well, because Sister Janice had us practice it before Mass began.  We sat on the hard metal folding chairs in the cafeteria/chapel and sang it over and over again, but we didn’t really understand it.  Not yet.

I remember well wondering–maybe even asking–just exactly how we were supposed to love everyone?  I couldn’t comprehend how I was supposed to love people I didn’t know, had never met, or maybe did know and didn’t like!  I seem to recall that my mother told me I would understand one day.

And she was right.  I don’t know exactly when my heart broke open and I started to care about everyone in the world, to love them–maybe not as much as I love myself, because that would be too demanding, wouldn’t it? But at least enough to feel empathy for them, to cry at their stories, to make allowances for their faults.

I’m not an especially nice person.  I think that most people reach a point in life where they too understand that kind of love.  And this love–agape–is the basis for compassion, for feeling with another person.

And yet wars, violence, hate, division–these do not go away.  Your Facebook Timeline is probably littered with memes that are the antithesis of love and compassion right this minute.  I think that’s because the demands of this love are too much for us and so we protect ourselves by “otherizing.”  If this person or that person or this group or that group is NOT LIKE US, we can tell ourselves we don’t really have to love them.  We can label them monsters, or heathens, or extremists, or deadbeats, or fanatics, or even liberals and conservatives.  Then we can get back to loving the people who are more like us.

Some say that Christianity–and please understand I am not advocating for imposing a state religion, just talking about what might happen if all Christians radically followed all the teachings of Christ–could never work to solve the problems of the world on a wide scale.  GK Chesterton made this famous response: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”

What if we tried it, really tried it?  What if we let ourselves love?  How would the world be transformed?

And that reminds me of another song we used to sing when I was a little girl at St. Joseph School.

They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love;

Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

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0 thoughts on “Love: The Key to Compassion

  1. I find most big emotions hard to deal with. Love however, always gives me a run for my money. Recently, I downloaded Audrey Assad’s new song, “Even Unto to Death”, and it’s amazing how much you realize you are connected to more than just yourself while her words play. Thanks for a great post.

  2. The Chesterton quote is really spot on. I remember/know both songs you reference and they bring back some heart warming memories. Love really is hard to do, but powerful when done.

  3. This is such an important message.

    1 Corinthians 13:1-3King James Version (KJV)

    1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

    2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

    3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

    I find it difficult to love people myself. When I look back on some of the choices I have made in my life, I find myself unlovable; however, God (in all of His perfectness) loves me despite my faults. Ought I not do the same (in all of my unholiness) to others. Thank you so much for adding your pin to #ThePinterestGame. ~Jennifer

  4. Beth Carroll Hunley

    Beautiful piece, Leslie. Another song that has been running through my head often for the past couple of weeks, though not one we ever sung as Mass, is Burt Bacharach’s “What the World Needs Now is Love Sweet Love” which I heard him play (and sing) during at the finale of a tribute to him which I caught on PBS a few weeks ago. We tried to sing it at the Northwest FISH Pantry the other day. We also sang “He’s got the Whole World in His Hands” which was a bit easier for us. However, Burt Bacharach’s music has stayed with me. What a gift to all of us! Music has such a powerful ability to inspire us, and remind us of who we are called to be, and who we really are! And so does your post!! Thank you!

  5. Wow. I was floored at the G.K. Chesterton quote. Such beauty, such truth in those words.

    And, I, too, would love to see how the world would look if we ALL just loved a little more… a little harder… a little broader than our immediate circle of influence.

    Great post!

  6. Loving like Jesus is really hard to do and sometimes we just dont want to try so I really love the quote you have in there from Chesterton. “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” It would be so amazing if we all tried together!

  7. pwcamy

    I love how you take us back to our school days – and the questions that popped in your head as you learned about our faith! I often had questions too! I can feel that metal chair under my bottom lol! I love this post, because it reminds us of the simple – yet certainly not easy – instructions Jesus gave us – to love one another! Amen!

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