Comeback on Compassion
Scripture: Exodus 34:1-10
Recently, I was talking with a new friend who was sharing his departure from the Church because of theological nitpicking, programs of sin management, an inability to be truly vulnerable with one another, and an unwillingness to practice real forgiveness towards each other. He shared that his friend groups outside the church are much more authentic, caring, and nurturing than the community he found inside the church. And this wasn’t some fringe church participator, but someone who had undergone formal education to be a pastor.
Frustration with communities of faith is not an isolated story, but increasingly the norm. Many people are finding communities of faith to be stuck in ruts of judgmentalism, Us vs. Them tribal mentality, and places which inhibit outside-the-box reflection on the intersection of spirituality and the human experience.
In my experience, Christians require acknowledgment of sin, but we seek to keep the affirmation of our imperfections in the past tense or as a mostly minor issue. We are suckers for the sensational story. It’s okay to “once” be lost, so long as “now” you’re found. And most of our experiences don’t fit neatly into these either/or categories.
In the scroll of Exodus, the Hebrew people were in the process of entering into a covenant relationship with God. Yahweh God had already delivered them out of despair, brokenness, and bondage. There “once” was seemingly in the rearview mirror. Through miraculous acts of mighty power God had humbled the Egyptians and rescued the Hebrews. But their “now” was a disaster. No sooner had their covenantal marriage as a people to God begun, then they had entered into spiritual adultery in the form of a golden calf.
The people had seen God work in astounding ways and yet when times became challenging they went AWOL.
Still God wants to stretch Moses’ understanding of who God is and how God reacts to our brokenness. I love how Eugene Peterson translates Exodus 34:6 God passed in front of him and called out, “God, God, a God of mercy and grace, endlessly patient––so much love, so deeply true.” God’s self-proclaimed identity does not diminish the seriousness of the toxicity of our sin for ourselves or others, but it also shows God’s willingness to meet us in this place and transform us.
How would a foundational understanding of God as full of mercy, grace, endless patience, and compassionate love change the way we understand our own personal journeys?
What would it take for faith communities to be more vulnerable with one another about their inner struggles?
How might our acknowledgment of our perpetual inclination to commit to God and then commit unfaithfulness toward God change the way we interact with a broken world?
Do we mercilessly show others the same merciless judgment that we show ourselves?
What would it look like for compassion to make a comeback our faith communities?