Chesed. It is the Hebrew word for mercy, steadfastness, lovingkindness… compassion. It is often the term used to describe the kind of love God has for us and how He acts on it. We are thus likewise commanded to embrace this love and act towards God and one another the way He does… and is.
And how does God want us be? Micah 6:8 says "but He's already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It's quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love. And don't take yourself too seriously — take God seriously." (The Message).
And just who is our neighbor? I think we all know Christ's take on that one…
This is a clarion call for all believers who claim the love of Jesus Christ in their lives. Me, you… everyone. As I journey through life, it saddens me to come across more and more believers who say "compassion is not my spiritual gift". Passing by people in need, shunning opportunities to show the love of Christ in ways He Himself would have done, believers use the excuse of "I'm just not that kind of person".
Many who know me will know that I hold those spiritual gifts tests in low esteem. Using numbers and metrics, believers lap up the self-absorbed discovery of who they are in Christ based on fallible questions. If compassion and mercy are not within the scope of their results, they use it as a justification for not extending grace and compassion to the "…least of these" (Matthew 25), when really it's nothing but apathetic, soul-numbing rot.
Yes, it is true that some people are called to greater terms of service in the realm of compassion. But Jesus Christ lived and loved and laughed amidst the poor, destitute, emprisoned and bereft. As living examples of His transformation, compassion is not an option for us! Yet… so many choose to think that it is. And I know how justly guilty I am in my own life. How many have suffered because I've said "that's not my job" or "that's not my gift" or "God would never give me more than I could handle and THIS is far more than I can handle, thus it's not my responsibility" (I Cor 10:14 is the one the most misinterpreted verses in all of Scripture, as far as I'm concerned).
The rich and poor need one another! We all need God! How dare we step aside while the beggar lies bleeding on the street, for disgust we might get hurt or get a little bit of grime on our shoes. Fear or loathing grips us, we assume he'll use our money or time for his own devices and, heaven forbid, we get swindled. Now that's not a good use of God's resources, is it?
That's fear talking.
The poor are getting poorer for a reason, people. And these are our neighbors.
To truly love the least amongst us, we will have to risk. We will have to get a bit dirty. We will have to truly come to an intimate understanding of the gritty, harsh, endurable chesed God has for the poor and downtrodden.
You choose Christ? You choose to love the poor. It is a way of life… not an option in a spiritual gifts seminar.