What I am about to ask is radical and hard, perhaps one of the more difficult things you will do in your life. For the last year and a half, this column has been dedicated to Compassion, a movement of children, youth, young adults, and adults who have become the heart, eyes, hands, and feet of Jesus, with the priorities of Jesus central throughout the Northeast United States, Bermuda, and around the world. We have been challenged to be compassionate at home, in our churches, communities, cities, and anywhere we reside. Now, the challenge goes to another level, I would like to invite you to be compassionate with your enemies.
Who are your enemies? Jesus, during the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7), described the enemies as those who curse, hate, and spitefully use and persecute you. Perhaps, you may be like me and have a difficult time identifying enemies, or maybe feel uneasy calling them enemies—after all, it is a strong use of the word. In this litany may be identified people who have caused you or your loved ones pain, are a thorn in your side, who have bullied you, spoken falsely against or about you, and never reach out to offer a hand of support, but go to the extent of doing all manner of evil against you.
Can you think of anyone like that in your life? If you can’t, you are blessed! Some of you may perhaps be able to think of someone who could be considered an enemy. However, the challenge comes from Jesus, the very source of compassion. Show them compassion.
How can you show compassion to your enemies?
• Forgive unconditionally.
• Apologize, if they think it is your fault, even if it is not. (Matthew 5:23, 24).
• Pray that God will bless and change all of us.
• Look for the positive.
• Seek to understand and to be understood.
• Don’t return evil for evil, such as seeking revenge.
• Walk the extra mile (Matthew 5).
• Use wisdom through a loving word, wise counsel, and a kind action.
• Treat all God’s children with kindness, as Jesus did.
• Congratulate them when they succeed; help them when they fail.
These are just a few suggestions. The Bible is replete with principles, and they are not naive and wimpy. Yet the fact is that this is very hard and it takes a tremendous amount of God’s grace to practice. The Jesus lifestyle and model is how to win and influence people, including ourselves.
Compassion is the lifestyle of the committed and Jesus’ ideal for His followers. Years ago, He challenged us. He knew it was only by cultivating compassion by His grace that we begin to create lasting change in our professions, vocations, homes, churches, communities, and ultimately, the world.
My call during 2014 for youth, young adults, and adults from New York to Maine, and in the beautiful islands of Bermuda, and beyond, is this: let us go in the name of Jesus and become His heart, eyes, hands, and feet in our relationship with the loved and the unloved and show them compassion. More than a call, it is a necessity. It is our only option, if we want a better home, a better church, a better community, and a better world.
José Cortés, Jr., is the director of Adventist Youth Ministries in the Atlantic Union.