Compassion of Christ

Main Point: Jesus, to the gathered disciples, said, “Peace be with you,” and he imparts to the disciples the teaching that upon receiving the Holy Spirit sins are forgiven.

New Light: When Jesus says, “Peace be with you,” this was really a very beautiful moment of spiritual presence. I was just imagining being there, and hearing Jesus speak these words.

Truth: Peace is so descriptive of the feeling I have when I am aware of being in the presence of spirit. This feeling of peace, or as Thich Nhat Hanh would add, Being Peace, is so naturally conducive to forgiveness. To me, in such a moment, there is a wider understanding of the human condition, in which we recognize that although we are not perfect, we are reflected in the perfection of Spirit. To understand this is to bring great compassion upon oneself, and upon humankind.

Implications: Likely I read this scripture differently than most. Where the scripture says forgiveness of sins, I understand compassion for the human condition – with all its flaws and ignorance and innocence by which we separate ourselves emotionally from God. Forgiveness or compassion of this frailty comes with deep understanding of oneself as not separate from another. Whatever your sin is, that sin is also mine. With understanding, there is less need for judgment and incrimination. This deep level of understanding really leads to great compassion for all.

Problems: The literal phrase “Forgiveness of sins” continues to feel problematic for me. Forgiveness to me is not something only certain people can bestow, and it is not something that automatically wipes clean the slate of transgression. Forgiveness for me is not about telling a dark secret to someone and having it be held in utmost secrecy, however comfortable and trusting strict confidentiality might feel, because true reconcilliation involves compassionate action. Forgiveness to me is mostly about compassion – and I have felt this compassion strongly from individuals that were not motivated by these words of Jesus, though they always embody a strong presence of spirit. This generous concern motivates me to feel compassion toward myself and enables me to honestly extend this kind consideration toward others. Compassion gently invites me to higher ground as it bids me to be closer to, and in, God. This kind of compassion is from the consciousness of agape, love, perhaps divine love.

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8 responses

  1. Forgive me for butting in on your study, but I wanted to tell you that this post touched something in me. I read it over and over. It’s so healing. Thank you.

  2. Hi Meredith :-). You said …Forgiveness for me is not about telling a dark secret to someone and having it be held in utmost secrecy, however comfortable and trusting strict confidentiality might feel, because true reconcilliation involves compassionate action…. I think you’re right … the listening to other’s secrets and keeping them might be a duty performed but compassionate action sounds like it comes from loving concern that doen’t just listen but changes things for the better.

  3. Hi Crystal – I think I’m going to end up discussing forgiveness too once I get “back to business” on my blog. So far it’s got most “votes…”As a quick thought: I’ve felt something of that broad and wide, all encompassing compassion for human beings/life too. Maybe a problem is how to relate that “big thing” to forgiveness of very specific individuals and specific acts of wrongdoing, especially when we, or someone we love, has to live with their consequences from then on.Theoretically the “big” experience should include that. But as a practical matter, I don’t find it so easy…

  4. Hi Paul. You’re commenting on Meredith’s post here, but I hope you don’t mind if I reply too. I think I know what you mean … sometimes, to me, it feels like if I forgive a hurtful act, it means I’m saying that it was ok that it happened. And if the bad thing happened to someone I love, sometimes I’m even less likely to forgive the transgressor. Maybe part of the answer lies in thinking of forgiveness as something you do for yourself, not for the person who did the bad thing. Myself, I have a hard time forgiving others but I know one thing for sure … I have hurt other people and I so wish they’ll forgive me.

  5. There’s lots of good stuff here in this post and comments, some of which I want to respond to:Meredith: re “Forgiveness of sins~” I agree with you about all the things you say it is not. Forgiveness issomething much more and greater. Forgiveness isperfect love; it is exercising a spiritual consciouness so exalted that you can see the total situation, why the offended acted as he/she did you can see the guilt the person may (or may not feel), you can see your own involvement in bringing about the offense, youcan see the healing dimension of going out to the person in love, you can see how it all turns to glory, etc. etc.twyla, you’re not ‘butting in’; you are a welcome addition to our study. Please continue to comment with anything in your heart. If you want to post to this blog, I believe most or all of us will be very glad for you to join us in that way. Talk to David about it.Paul, I agree that the ‘nitty-gritty’ is more complex than “all encompassing compassion”. For example as thebeginning of a process of forgiveness a probationofficer might feel led to put the offender in jail, at least for a moment. Forgiveness is really acting as a surrogate for God in the particular situation. Your own namesake found it necessary to “deliver some people to Satan” (for a creative purpose) 1 Timothy 1:20.Crystal, forgiveness is absolutely something that I need to do for myself; otherwise I cannot rightfully ask God to forgive me. Besides that harboring an injury always hurts me more than the presumed offender.

  6. I hope I’m not going too far off target here – this isn’t about the forgiveness aspect of this portion of scripture, but about the peace blessing. Forgive me if this observation has already been made earlier in John.I am struck by how Jesus changed the wording of the peace blessing commonly used from wishing peace to giving peace. It seemed to give us an added dimension in considering peace, which I’ve often thought of as the tranquility of the soul that fears nothing from God and is content in its life here – whatever that may entail.

  7. Larry, What a beautiful description of forgiveness. This really expands my concept of this, and it is very rich.Twyla, you are not off target, and I welcome you here. I hope you’ll join us often. I, too, was struck by the Peace blessing. When you let that sink in a little deeper, it is very rich also. Tranquility of the soul is a sweet description.Paul and Crystal, interesting discussion of forgiveness. I wonder if it is our clinging to the past that makes it difficult to forgive sometimes. Like not letting it go. I, too, have wondered about forgiveness being like condoning an action, but now I see it more as trying my best to understand the action, and acknowledging that I, too, could have made such a mistake. As for watching others suffer for the mistakes they have made, our kind compassion and understanding is likely the best we can offer, and then avoid unncessary judgements and incriminations. Likely the consequences are themselves the best teachers. I was reading something by Buddhist nun Pema Chodron recently, and she has an interesting view of judging others. Even with acts of incredible indescretion, she holds no judgement. She calls it “Don’t know mind.” She describes this unknowing, not knowing, as being fully open to understanding others. Her ability to do this is really remarkable, and it enables her to embody compassion more fully. To me it was a very fresh notion, coming as I do from a background where judgement is almost second nature.

  8. I have had this conversation with folks before (regarding forgiveness). For me, harbouring resentment and anger, and hatred is like carrying toxins inside of you — poisoning yourself spirit and sometimes body.We forgive — we let go — not just for the sake of that other person — but for our own.When I forgive I amy still hold you accountable for the wrong you did — though I recognize that like me you are a finite and limited creature and that you acted from a situation I cannot fully fathom. But in forgiving I know longer hold you accountable for my personal pain. My pain is my issue and living with it is my problem and not yours.

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