Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Can We Have Both Convictions and Compassion?

The other day I saw the following cartoon:

I had two different, conflicting reactions. The first was to wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment it espoused as it is essentially something that I have long maintained. I can disagree with some aspect of your life (be it found your in your beliefs, words, thoughts or actions) and not be anti-you. All the people I love most at times say, think and do things with which I disagree. Heck, I sometimes even do things with which I disagree!

My second reaction though was to ask the following question: Why is it that so often when we say, "I disagree" some people hear "I hate you" instead? Some would contend that it is because none of us likes to be told we are wrong (especially when it comes to overarching things like lifestyles), and if we can recast valid moral criticism as hateful rhetoric, it frees us from feeling guilty. This likely is part of the problem for all of us in facing criticism, but I fear that often when social liberals write off conservative critiques as self-righteous, hateful and judgmental, it is in large part precisely because conservative critiques (regardless of their level of validity) are often self-righteous, hateful and judgmental.

On both sides of the equation, compassion and conviction are often set against each other. As Christians, we must do all we can to work against this. While we must stand firm in our biblical convictions, if we are to call ourselves followers of Christ we must stand firm in a Christ-like manner, more concerned about GOD'S glory than about either OUR rights or our BEING right.

In a blog post today, David Crabb makes the following helpful observations:
Christians follow a Savior who looked out upon a sinful, hard-hearted multitude and had compassion on them, because he saw them for what they were–sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36). This is hard for us. Holding compassion and conviction together in healthy tension is not something that comes naturally. We tend to either be compassionate and sinfully permissive, or conscientiously upholding Biblical standards of holiness but self-righteous.

And yet the same Jesus who threw the money-changers out of the temple, wept over the city of Jerusalem. In both our public discourse and in our personal relationships, may we have more of the spirit of Jesus.

Compassion and conviction is not an either-or scenario.
After all, if I am a Christian, my Savior commands me, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," (Matthew 5:44). And in humility, I must always remember, "The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost" (1 Timothy 1:15).

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