Commemorating My Friend, Brad, a Man of Compassion
The world praises the value of compassion, but not enough. Christian communities do believe in the value and encourage practicing compassion in our lives, but not often as God taught us through the Scriptures and not as He demonstrated it in action. Believers hear about those great achievements of pastors building mega-churches, of missionaries traveling around the world, of Christian writers publishing best-selling books, and of business leaders obtaining financial success, but the significance of compassion and the examples of individuals who practice compassion everyday became too shabby to be decorated on the first page of Christian magazines and even cliché to be preached and celebrated on Sunday church pulpits. Thus, I want to uplift the beauty of compassion from a life of an ordinary man and two of my friends by interpreting compassion as a divine seed that must grow in our hearts.
Regardless of religion and culture, it is amazing to observe how so many individuals in the world have compassion on the suffering of the world and express it through adopting children. Statistics shows that France, the U.K., Germany, and the U.S. have been the frontiers in encouraging and engaging in adoption since the great wars. Even though, in many countries, people have negative and uncomfortable attitude about adoption, it is being reformed into positive and virtuous deed. Adoption requires compassion. Married couples often choose the option for adoption when they encounter problems with having their own babies and when they feel compassion and empathy for children who have no parents to be taken care of their needs. Of course adoption does bring joy and happiness to the adopting parents, but it is not an easy matter to nurture adopted children. And, this could be tougher when the children have disabilities. It needs extra time, energy, and resource. It also requires extraordinary sacrifice, burden, and endurance. It demands a big, generous heart: compassion, not just feeling, but also continuous actions and commitments.
Recently, my friend Brad received the calling to be in heaven with our Lord. There was a grave funeral on the earth with tear and sadness; however, there was an uplifting celebration in heaven with laughter and joy. I did not know Brad for a long time, but had the privilege to meet him every Sunday at our church and to talk with him whenever we saw each other. He was a nice, sincere, and authentic man of faith, volunteering at the church parking lot and serving the Sunday school Bible studies for elementary students. He also took care of his elderly parents and his young adult daughter. When I was attending his funeral, I learned many things about Brad and his life. He did not achieve any Nobel Peace Award, but he was a compassionate man, a man of God’s heart, a man who let compassion humbly and devotionally moved him to act, imitating the very heart of our Redeemer who stepped down from his eternal, glorious throne in heaven for the sake of his children.
There are a number of people who allowed their compassion to move them and actually acted. My friend, after his marriage, adopted a baby girl and boy who had mental disabilities. It was not an easy choice for the young couple, but they dedicated to raise them as their children and God’s gifts for them, not as burden. I can only assume the hardships and frustrations that they experienced as they nurtured them who need tireless attention and extreme self-surrendering. Twenty or more selfless years passed since the adoption, and my friend still loved them very much. On his journal, before the tragedy, he wrote that he was very proud of his daughter and son. My friend Scott adopted an Asian boy who had cerebral palsy. The boy cannot talk, cannot, move his feet and hands, having no muscle functions to be like his friends on the play ground. Another friend adopted three siblings who had Fetal Alcohol/Drug Syndrome. Their birth mother was intoxicated with pain medication when she was pregnant. They learned and were aware of the serious, life-long commitment that their children would oblige; however, when compassion stirred their inner-beings, it did not stop them, but moved them to act.
Why should compassion matter? It should be a big matter, for it is one of God’s characters. The biblical definition of compassion is similar to mercy, tender heart, and loving-kindness. There are numerous Bible verses that praise God’s compassion. Psalmist extols that “the LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in loving-kindness” (Psalms 103:8). God who is compassionate commanded us to be compassionate in Luke 6:36: “Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate.” Also Jesus himself obeyed the Father by being moved by divine compassion, healing many people who were sick, helpless, marginalized and excluded as stated in Matthew 9:36: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
The special feature of compassion is its intimate relationship to the suffering and needs of others. Compassion demonstrates God’s capacity and determination to embrace our suffering. For this reason, God created the universe and involved himself in the affairs of the broken generations and initiated the salvation history instead of letting His creation write and run its own sinful history. He chose to care about the miserable nature of the human beings corrupted by sin that spawned suffering. He is ready to take and embrace any types of suffering when we lay them down at the feet of Jesus who dived into the pool of evil.
All women and men in the world have the innate characteristic, compassion, because we have been made in God’s likeness and image. Don’t we all feel the pain and stirring inside of us when we hear the outcries of the hunger, poverty and meaningless deaths of the innocent? However, how much are we actually responding to our inner-callings, perhaps Jesus knocking on the doors of our spirits? How much do we harden our hearts through disobediences? How much do we desire to be compassionate while we ask God for our needs, well-being, and blessing? I am not asking these questions because I am doing everything right. In contrary, these questions are reflected upon my own experience of dullness and lack of responding to compassion.
Even while I was writing this post, I received a phone call from a fire department for a donation. I gently told him that I cannot support the one-time gift of $20. I am not a millionaire and not even categorized as a middle class man, but I could have spent $20 for fire fighters, especially while writing about compassion. Of course, this does not mean I should donate every time I receive such a call and give all my money to charity. And, I did not use the stories of my friends to advocate for adoptions. Nevertheless, the point of this post is that God enrooted the seed of compassion in our hearts. The seed has the potential to grow into something glorious and beautiful, and we as the children of the most high God have the biblical and Christian responsibility to cultivate the seed to grow and to blossom in the wasteland that we are living in filled with hatred, violence, and injustice. The more we obey God by responding to the inner-stirring towards the suffering, the more the seed will grow and grow into a beautiful flower like lily that is so much beautiful than the splendor of Solomon. May the stories of those individuals, blossoming the seed of compassion into flowers, be pleasing aroma to the LORD and to the world filled with garbage odor of sins.