“As though you”

Friday

Hebrews 13

Prison...♪♫

Prison…♪♫ (Photo credit: кiт-кaтн Halкeтт)

3Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.

Do we need to say more?

Yes, the author of Hebrews probably had in mind those members of the Christian community who were in prison.  Yes, those who were being tortured – the standard form of questioning used on the non-elite members of society – were likely affiliated with the believers.  Yes this evokes all that Paul says about the Christian community using the metaphor of a body: “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”  It’s not just your toe that suffers when you smack it against a chair, nor your lips only that are thrilled at the first kiss.

But if God meant for us to care only about our own, the Torah would not have provided for the poor or protected the powerless and the stranger; Ruth, the Moabite, would not have been remembered as the grandmother of David; Jonah would not have been compelled to go to Nineveh; and Jesus would not have taken the commandment to love your neighbor and made it clear it applied to everyone.

3Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.

What is true of the body of Christ is true also of the body politic.  We are connected not only in Christ our redeemer; we are connected in God our creator.  All people are created in the image of God.  All are recipients of God’s providential care.  All are beneficiaries of Christ’s saving work.  All are invited into the reality of God’s grace and life.  “For God so loved the world…”

We are connected.  All of us.

  “As though you were in prison with them… as though you yourselves were being tortured.”

Compassion, “to suffer with,” is the fundamental character of the righteous: to sense the cold of the unsheltered, to recognize the loneliness of the isolated, to appreciate the sorrow of the grieving,  to feel the hunger of the hungry (it’s why we fast, why fasting is a tool of spiritual formation).  And compassion means not only to share the burdens of the troubled, but to “rejoice with those who rejoice,” to celebrate all that is good in life wherever and to whomever it happens.

Compassion is the fundamental character of the righteous, because compassion is the fundamental character of God, the God of creation and incarnation, the God who walks with us, the God who loves his world.  All of it.

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