“The measure of a country’s greatness is its ability to retain compassion in times of crisis.”
This quote struck me when I came across it while doing research on a project.
We might think that a country is great because of its might, or because of its money, or because of its magnificence. But these factors do not a great country make. Greatness comes from retaining (that is, from not losing, but keeping, not giving up, nor forsaking, not discarding, but continuing to hold) compassion for one another even when times of crisis come.
Notice that our Supreme Court Justice does not say that greatness comes from avoiding crisis, because neither country nor individual can avoid times of trouble. Sometimes trouble is entirely inevitable. The man Job said that people are “full of trouble” (Job 14:1), and the Messiah Himself, speaking prophetically through the pen of David, averred that “trouble is near” (Psalm 22:11). So while we can neither avoid all trouble nor control others’ actions toward us, we can, with God’s help, have control over our reactions to the trouble caused us and the crises we face.
In this week’s quote, Justice Marshall is exhorting us as individuals and as a nation to be people who react with compassion. The crisis is certain, and it has found us. Now, will we find the compassion needed to be great in this hour of testing?
The first time the word compassion occurs in our Bible is in the story of the life of Moses (Exodus 2:6) when Pharaoh’s daughter finds baby Moses, and Israelite and a member of her people’s enemy, and yet she responds by having compassion on the child and saving him. The final time the word compassion appears in our Bible is in Jude 1:22, where the Apostle tells us that to have compassion on someone is to “make a difference.” If we want to make a difference in these times of crisis, it starts by us having compassion on the people that God puts into our lives, and be setting a compassionate tone in a world that needs to know the love of Christ.
There is still time to make a difference in our country, but it comes from having compassion, and that starts with you and me.
Verse of meditation for the week – “But when He saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” Matthew 9:36
(This message was originally sent to our community July 8, 2020)
One of our former congregants who moved to another area wrote this reply, which I reprint here by permission. It has been lightly edited for clarity:
Hello Pastor Joel,