Do you know what is better than charity and fasting and prayer?

It is keeping peace and good relations between people,

as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind.

- Prophet Mohammed


Day 18

I walked into the office today only to be handed a telephone. It wasn't the first time this had happened and judging by the expression on the tasked secretary's face, it appeared that the reasoning was the same as usual: a sick teacher calling to inform me that he or she is so ill that braving the streets would only lead to a certain death. When I first started my position as a "boss", I enjoyed the authority. It was fun seeing people act a certain way around me only because my title told them they should. Just like when students make up elaborate excuses (it's amazing how many family members get sick on the same day), I have the joy of determining how honest a sickness or an excuse really is. 

As a recovering lazy-ass myself, I'm pretty sure I exhausted the realm of sickness deception many times over. I used deaths, car accidents, diarrhea, rare illnesses, religion, legal troubles and just about every other disgusting kind of excuse all so I can stay at home and earn less money. I like to think that I have a knack for identifying bogus illnesses and excuses. On the other end of the phone today was a teacher with pink eye. He believed it to be a full-proof excuse, but when kids are out of the picture, pink eye isn't that bad. And therein lies my problem. Regardless of its validity, a viewed his "pink eye" as one of many interchangeable illnesses that are offered as an excuse to stay at home. Not once while talking to him did I consider that maybe he actually did have pink eye. I was simply sniffing around his story looking for holes. In short, I have become fatigued. My overuse of and overexposure to fraudulent claims of sickness have tired me so that I am indifferent to employees who get sick. I had no compassion for his situation.

Enter Christianity.

The compassion pouring from the souls of devout Christian followers is undeniable. No other religion in the world puts its own golden rule into practice more than Christians do. Christian missionaries have been traveling the world since the time of Paul all the way up to the Jesuits who kept the ball rolling well into the 19th Century. 
Go throughout the whole world and preach the gospel to all people-Mark 16:15
Compassion is, of course, an integral part of missions, but there are many people who might disagree. I used to be one of those people. I viewed mission work more as conquest, colonialism, destruction of culture and nature, and regional oppression. Compassion just didn't do it for me. You might be confused by this. If you recall the story about the remorse I felt after accidentally causing the death of an ant, you would think that compassion is deeply ingrained in my spirit and in a way you'd be partly correct.

I have always had compassion for the helpless, but I'm coming to realize how easy it is to exhaust that well. Everyday I turn on the television and see extreme suffering. The suffering from the earthquakes in Haiti and China was plastered on every screen all over the world. The continued famine and poverty in North Korea makes it into my living room daily and, of course, the unrelated but devastating maritime disasters in the Yellow Sea and the Gulf of Mexico have kept most of us on this peninsula pretty drained. Couple the problems in the real world with the fact that people find entertainment value in movies and television programs depicting human suffering and it's no surprise that while people are naturally compassionate, we see little of it practiced. 

I've been spending a lot of time looking at this:

Of course, the actual crucifixion was much more disturbing, but it brings me to my main point. Some people see the execution of Jesus as a fulfillment of His promise. And they're right.  Jesus predicted his death and without it, he could not have risen from the dead thus confirming his claims. The continuing use of this image, however, presents humans with two paths. 

We could lump it in with all the other images of death and human suffering that we see everywhere we look. Or we could use it as a springboard to help others. Here's the difference for me.

This image irks me deeply. It stirs an emotion deep within, however, I'm not sure how to act on it. Do I get depressed or should I educate? Perhaps I can pass laws to make sure this doesn't happen again. Honestly, I feel anger. I'm angry at the white crowd who believed it was their right to do this.

This one of a Chinese-tortured member of the Falun Gong makes me hope for bad things to happen to the Chinese government and even some of its people. It's torture for sure and the Chinese government has been known to execute members for practicing their beliefs. Someone should pay, right?

Neither of these images of death and torture inspire compassion. Sure, I feel extreme guilt and sympathy for anyone in a situation like this, but my physical reaction is one of anger. However, when I see Jesus on the cross, I feel total and pure compassion. I can feel his compassion for us. I can feel God's love and I can feel the true message of love. For many years, I thought that the Crucifix was there for guilt and considering that many contemporary churches are opting for the more positive vibe during service by getting rid of the Crucifix, it's clear that I was not the only one. 

Nonetheless, the Catholic church has remained steadfast in its use and for that I deeply applaud them. The brutal execution of Christ might make some feel guilty for their sins, but the image of that day should not. Maybe I'm alone on this, but when I see Jesus on that cross, I feel the warmth of his love and the desire to serve my fellow man. I don't feel angry or litigious, nor do I feel wrathful or vengeful. I feel pure. The Crucifix is a reminder to those who are overwhelmed by images of suffering to the point of fatigue that we still have something in us. There's still a spark of compassion within each of us that is untapped and ready to share with the world.


  1. I love what you said about the cross and it's message. How interesting that you differentiated b/t the feelings evoked by different images of people in torturous situations. I've never thought of it that way. It WAS the ultimate thing that anyone could do for someone die in their place. Then to think that God the Father loved US, who regularly oppose Him and His purposes in thought, action and word, enough to let His only Son die for That IS a message of compassion and love, not of guilt. Guilt is not from God.....He desires repentant hearts, not for people to merely feel guilty.

    When I was in Germany visiting the Romeisers in 1999, I was drawn to a hand carved cross with Jesus still on it. Even though I knew that death didn't keep Him down and He was risen, I felt it was good for me to never forget that ultimate act of love that He accomplished just for you and me...all people. It's still on my dresser and is very special to me. It is a reminder of how much He loves us.

    My friends when I lived in TX wrote a song called "Worth Everything". It talks about how even if it were only you in the world, Jesus would have laid down His life, just the same because you are worth it. I tried to find the song online but didn't have time....their band is Pocket Full of Rocks, if you want to find it.

    "I took a look inside my heart, I tried to find a part
    Is there anything, I could give the King
    Maybe there's something I've said,
    Maybe there's something I've done
    Oh, just anything to make me
    one of the ones He loves

    In desperation I stepped back,
    to see just what I had
    And to my dismay all I found
    Was a pile of filthy rags
    What was I to say, what was I to do
    Now that I stand here
    with nothing I could give to You
    And I hear Your voice call out my name
    And I listen close and I can hear You say

    You were worth everything, you were loved by the King
    You were worth everything,
    No there's nothing you could bring
    You were worth it all the time, I loved you all the while
    Hear the angels sing
    You were worth everything

    You stood on the edge of nothing
    And looked down and saw everything
    And before you spoke a word, the Father knew how it would be

    To give every man a Savior, the ultimate sacrifice
    The giving of what was most dear,
    the giving of His own son's life
    And he saw that hill and he saw that tree
    Oh and he saw the cross, it would one day be your own
    And I hear His voice call out Your name
    If you listen close You can hear Him say ...."

  2. I guess some might say that it comes down to martyrdom. Was Jesus simply a martyr? Did he die for politics or our sins? Of course, this is seen as debatable to many, but it's clear that people create martyrs which leads us to the crux of this entire thing. Do you believe? Those detached from the Christian message of God will see Jesus' death as political martyrdom for the poor or needy whereas Christians see it as atonement.

    Bottom line is this: The cross, like God, gets defined through cultural perceptions. People will attach different meaning to it based on cultural elements and desires. My desire, regardless of faith, is to see compassion. I need more in my life and there's nothing wrong with that.