Born with the capacity to be compassionate

I’m at a loss for answers to Jon’s question(s) in his, ‘Thought for the Week’, (Brechin Advertiser, Thursday September 10).

All I can say is we must strive to display the compassion of which we are all capable, whether we be people of faith or none.

At the moment I’m reading a fascinating book by the Dalai Lama entitled ‘Beyond Religion’. He argues that all people have a natural disposition toward compassion be they followers of a religion or not. Compassion, he argues, comes from our innate human nature as human beings. In this I agree with the Dalai Lama. I know many lovely people who are not religious yet display compassion. However, he adds that those of us who follow the beliefs and practices of a religion have additional ingredients which impact on the way we live, thus our disposition toward compassion takes on an added dimension.

He compares the difference between natural compassion and religious compassion to the difference between water and tea. Natural compassion is like water which we need every day. Religious compassion is like tea which is mostly water but with added ingredients - tea leaves, sugar, milk - and they add to the taste making it more enjoyable, and which we want every day.

Although we can live without tea we cannot live without water, and likewise we can live without religion but we are born with the capacity to be compassionate. He argues that if everyone lived compassionate lives, be they people of faith or none, then the world would be a better place. Sadly, many people do not choose to be compassionate.

For those of us who are followers of Jesus I would suggest there are three additional ingredients which bring the added dimension to our natural compassion, and if they were bottled they would come with a health warning. God is our focus: Be prepared to let go everything you have and are for God. Remember, everyone is a child of God and loved by God, no matter who they are or what they have done, just like you.

In John’s Gospel chapter six verse 60 some of Jesus’ followers found his teachings too difficult and verse 66 tells us they stopped following him. In verses 67 and 68 Jesus asks his 12 disciples if they want to leave as well. Peter replies that they have nowhere else to go to have eternal life. ‘Compassion plus’, is what Jesus asks of us today. Not easy. In following Jesus we have to be compassionate to everyone, people of all faiths and none, the stranger, the refugee, the migrant, the people trafficker. No one is excluded from our compassion, no matter who they are or what they’ve done.

Being compassionate, nevertheless, is much more than just feeling sorry for someone. Compassion is active not passive. It challenges us to do something to make better the situation for the person. Also, compassion is not about being soft or not wanting to upset people. In Mark’s Gospel chapter seven verse six, Jesus calls the Jewish Leaders hypocrites, because they made life difficult for ordinary Jews by their interpretation of the Jewish laws. Compassion involves justice.

The compassion Jesus asks of us is not easy. But if you and I strive to live this way we can make a difference in Brechin. Who knows it may spread further and impact on the situation in the Middle East. With God miracles happen.