President Theodore Roosevelt is credited with saying, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
There are variations to this quote, but as we look at what is before us, these words carry with them a lot of truth.
We are only a month away from Thanksgiving and a couple of months from Christmas. The holidays bring various reactions from people – gladness, stress, tensions, excitement. The emotions can be all over the board.
It’s also a good time to be reminded that we all probably have things to be thankful for. People who have shown us kindness. An unexpected gift. The list could be long.
It’s also a time of year to think about topics such as kindness, compassion and caring. These come to the forefront at this time of year.
The Salvation Army bell ringers in front of businesses, for example, show that people still need help, and we can take an opportunity to invest in showing kindness.
Also, look for opportunities to show kindness and compassion, not only at this time of year but throughout the year.
Before continuing, I want to take a moment and make an observation. Despite what some people say and promote, it is possible to agree to disagree on issues and yet be kind to one another and not be vitriolic.
The idea that if I do not agree with someone on a topic, and thus I am being unkind and intolerant is, well, a fallacious argument.
It is possible to agree to disagree. I have friends who do not see eye to eye with some of what I believe. But we are still kind to each other and would help each other out without hesitation.
We need to be careful in presenting a thought or view that is not reality, and we need to guard against putting forth claims that simply are not true. Just food for thought.
Now, back to Roosevelt’s words. If there was anyone who modeled compassion, mercy and grace, and yet did not agree with all the beliefs of the day, it was Jesus.
I must also say, without hesitation, that Jesus was not afraid to challenge some of the thinking of his time, but even in doing so, it was out of concern for his audience.
It is worth noting in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave an outline of what his followers should become and how they would live before the world around them.
Many of those I know who are followers of Jesus do desire to live a life that honors God and the reason – they have experienced God’s compassion and kindness by what he has done and is doing in their life. They want to model the attitude and life of Jesus to others.
That message on the hillside doesn’t cover every area of life, but chapters 5-7 of Matthew give us many things to consider. The words of Jesus are very practical, if we are willing to listen to what he says.
For example, in Matthew 5:7, Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful.” Since we have mentioned this word, the question needs to be asked, “What does it mean to be merciful?”
The word carries the idea of having pity on someone, of having compassion and caring for them. It is an action word.
Not only did Jesus talk about it, he lived it. He healed the blind and those with the leprosy. He fed the hungry, and he shared the message of eternal life because he was concerned for people’s spiritual well-being.
There is no doubt, Jesus modeled for others compassion and mercy.
Much of what he did and taught was so people could see God in the flesh. Jesus, though, was not afraid to speak the truth or challenge the status quo.
In his day, the religious establishment did not take kindly to what he was doing and teaching. He was “bad for their business,” we could say. He was not afraid to confront them ... and yet he also showed compassion and mercy to them. It is possible to do both.
One of Jesus’ favorite teaching tools was the use of stories. One of the most recognized is known as “The Good Samaritan.” It is a story of someone who showed mercy and compassion to another. The key figure, a man from the ancient area of Samaria, is traveling and comes across someone who has been injured.
Instead of ignoring the man’s pain, the Samaritan helped him. You see, mercy is more than simply being emotionally moved by a situation as we previously noted. Compassion, kindness and mercy, in their strongest form, are not only seeing a need, but if possible, doing something to help the situation.
It may be giving someone a meal. If they are struggling with something, it might be giving them some help or finding information that can help them.
I am glad God has shown compassion and kindness to me in so many ways. He has shown mercy to so many, and offers such to all who seek to know him.
God showed the ultimate act of mercy and kindness when Jesus came to Earth. Christ left heaven, took up residence on this planet, lived and taught here for 30-plus years. He was also very clear in why he came when he said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life for many.”
God’s love is seen in the fact that he saw a planet in need of kindness. Jesus loved us so much that he died on a cross and rose from the dead so we could have a new life.
I am so glad that he did that for me ... and you. Let God love you and allow him to show you his kindness and mercy. Take an objective look at who Jesus is. It might be surprise you what you find.
Spend time being thankful for what we have and take time to reach out to others and show them mercy and kindness.
Today’s Insights was written by the Rev. Scott Reeve, senior pastor of Oakridge Community Church in St. Joseph. Insights is written by area clergy to give different viewpoints on a variety of topics. It is published each Saturday in cooperation with the Berrien County Association of Churches. The views expressed by the author don’t necessarily reflect the views of member churches.