Jesus grieved and grew angry at the church’s hardness of heart. (Mark 3). Compassion signals the presence of Christ. Jesus calls us to love others as ourselves- even strangers and opponents. Hard hearts allow us to regulate, isolate, and direct our love to people like us. The Incarnation shatters these boundaries by entering human suffering. Calloused hearts can ignore the cries of our black siblings. Calloused hearts turn quickly from compassion to blame. If you can not see your loved one’s face crying out from under that officiers knee, your heart is seared shut. Your soul requires resurrection. Blame, demonizing, and tribalism allows us to walk away and never risk examining the deadly indifference or something worse lurking within us. Are we surprised to see videos of excessive force when the Commander and Chief tweets about shooting looters? Yet, if we lack compassion for police officers, firefighters, and soldiers (conscripted for civil policing) we must examine our hearts. The problems of systemic evil are not binary. Hatred begets hatred. Blame widens the divide. Name-calling releases our collective responsibility. If we Americans hope to find our better angels we will need to dig deep into our souls. We must imagine ourselves under that knee, pepper sprayed, and yes, assaulted while seeking to protect and serve.
Compassion demands action. Seeing crowds without healthcare, Jesus felt compassion, prayed for more workers, and provided free healthcare. (Matthew 9.14,20) Handheld TV studios are showing white American what black folks have long known. Will we somehow blame George Floyd for wanting to breathe? Will we look away? Will we linger long enough to feel the healing heart-aches of compassion? White Americans must rend our hearts, learn to hear, lower our voices, and bow our heads. We must reject leadership that is careless with words, blaming of others, and callous towards suffering. Our national healing demands equal justice for violent police officers and protestors. And so today, I am listening. I am lamenting. I am resolving to demand better of myself and those who represent me. This will not be enough, but it is a beginning. May compassion open my eyes, un-stop my ears, soften my tone, and empower my hands to serve. Amen.