Gently does it

"... he had compassion on them..." Matthew 9. 36

Jesus was in touch with his emotions. The Gospels are replete with eye-witness accounts, not only of what Jesus did and said, but of how he felt. He wore his heart on his sleeve: he could be angry, he could be sad, he could be happy, he could be sympathetic. Whatever emotion he was feeling, he expressed it. Throughout his first 30 years, with the exception of his birth and one moment in his childhood when he reached adolescence, Jesus lived in obscurity. In total contrast, his last 3 years were spent in the spotlight and, apparently, he did not try to hide anything. We are allowed a peek into his intimate prayer times and team talks with his disciples. Even when he is at his most vulnerable, being tempted by the devil after 40 days of fasting, we are flies on the wall - as he wrestles with the temptation of getting his job done the easy way.

For me, what emerges is not so much the complexity of his character but the compassion which underpins all these disparate emotions and the situations which evoked them. Whether he is responding in exasperation to the prejudice of his generation, or ministering to the needs of an outcast, Jesus' behaviour is motivated by his compassion, literally his "suffering with".

People can be motivated to do and to avoid all kinds of things. What distinguishes our behaviour is the motivation behind it. In the short-term, motivation is invisible. Unless we choose to make a big deal of it, no-one knows whether we do something for the sake of an ideal or for our own gratification. Further down the line the truth may emerge. But all the while God knows - so people of integrity will check their motives, recognising that while God may be the only one who sees, we are nevertheless accountable to each other.

This was the way Jesus lived his life. And what emerges is that, for all his apparent vulnerability, Jesus was in control - not just of his emotions but of events around him. Yet there is no sense of manipulation or heavy-handedness. Whether he is addressing a victim or an oppressor, a man or a woman, a child or an old person, Jesus conducts himself respectfully. This is consistent with what the Bible says about us all being made in the image of God (Genesis 1. 27). What difference would it make in your home, in your church, in your workplace or community - if respect for the divine imprint upon all of us characterised our dealings with each other, alongside the humanity we share?

There's only one way to find out...

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