Recently, I finished reading “Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky with my high school “Great Books” class in our homeschool co-op. One of the characters, Sonia, is described as having “insatiable compassion”. Later in the book, when she discovers that the main character is a murderer, her response is surprising. When Raskolnikov says to her, “How strange you are, Sonia. Embracing me and kissing me after I’ve told you about that. You don’t know what you’re doing.” To which she replies, “No, no, there is nobody, there is nobody anywhere in the world now unhappier than you!”
My class was incredulous with her response. Who responds to a confession of murder like that?!
My response was that God does. That’s exactly how he responds. His love and compassion towards sinners (that’s all of us!) is insatiable.
It’s incredible really. That He would look on us with all of our sin, our failings, and our inadequacies and move towards us instead of running away. How can He do that? It’s because He looks at us with eyes of grace, seeing what He can do to change us and make us right with Him. There is no sin he can’t forgive, no hurt he can’t heal, no brokenness he can’t fix.
I was reading all of these things and having all of these thoughts at the same time that our country was embroiled in the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and the accusations that were made against him by Dr. Ford. As I watched and read and considered all of the varying opinions among politicians, friends of the individuals involved, and social media
discussions arguments, I was struck by how different responses would be if everyone had insatiable compassion.
Insatiable compassion would mean that if a young woman is attacked in any way (whether it results in rape or not!), she would have trusted adults in her life that she could run to. She would know that they would open their arms wide to her, they would believe her, and they would not condemn.
Insatiable compassion would mean that if a young man acted inappropriately, he could admit his guilt and seek restoration. He would know that his actions would not be tolerated, but grace and forgiveness were his for the taking if he was willing to do the hard work of repentance.
But that’s not the world we live in. I was shocked that so many were shocked that Dr. Ford didn’t tell anyone outside of therapy for three decades about what she had endured. When I was seven-years-old, I was at a neighbor’s house. My friend’s dad was watching television and as we walked through the living room on our way outside, I glanced at the TV. All I remember is that a woman was getting into the shower and when she turned on the water, blood came out instead. I had nightmares for ten years afterwards. I never told my parents, because I knew they would not have approved of their daughter seeing what she did. In my little girl mind, I thought they would be upset with me. As an adult, I realize that I should have told them, because it’s the concealing of trauma that actually keeps healing and recovery from happening. My situation in comparison to what so many women have had to endure is so inconsequential, yet it helps me to have compassion. If I felt that I couldn’t tell anyone, then I get why young girls feel incapable of telling their story.
What would change if we all KNEW that we would be heard and not judged if we shared our stories? I have two daughters and two sons and we talk with them frequently about the unconditional nature of our love for them. We don’t want them bearing burdens on their own for fear of losing our love or our trust. I’ve shared my nightmare story with them, because if I saw something I wasn’t supposed to see in a world where I was sheltered and protected by my parents, I do not want to be naive and think that my children will never see something I wish they wouldn’t or encounter a situation that will leave them feeling powerless.
I was equally shocked that so many were shocked that a teenage boy would get drunk at a party and try to have sex with a girl. My thirteen-year-old son has heard “locker room talk” and he has been homeschooled for two years and most of his interactions are with kids who are either Christians or have strong moral backgrounds. It’s a cultural expectation that boys will be boys and while I abhor this expectation, I don’t understand how we expect any different when this behavior is celebrated- until it isn’t. Underage drinking is encouraged by many and tolerated by most. Girls are encouraged to dress in certain ways to get the attention of boys. Do girls deserve to be taken advantage of boys? Absolutely not! But are there societal changes that could occur to make these stories rare rather than common? Absolutely!
What would change if no drinking under a certain age was enforced by parents and compassionate adults? If boys were taught to value girls and treat them as the priceless treasures they are, could they ever force a girl to do something that she doesn’t want to do? My children are imperfect sinners, so we have plenty of opportunity to practice valuing others and it makes me wonder what would change in our society if we all practiced this. If we would all have to come up with three kind things to say to someone if we were mean to them. Or we had to do something nice for someone if we acted in a way that was hurtful.
A lot of opinions get thrown around when political issues arise and it always baffles me when I see Christians speak in hateful ways about individuals or groups of people that they disagree with. It’s almost like we feel we have a pass when we’re discussing these issues. I don’t understand it. We are to be imitators of Christ, which means we need to seek to respond to situations the way He would
With insatiable compassion.
“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7
“Praise the Lord, my soul; who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion. He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:1,4,10-12
“But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” Psalm 86:15
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:1-4
What would change if we actually lived this way? What if we followed Christ’s example and sought to be like-minded in ALL of our interactions? What if we based our compassion on God’s standard and not our own? What if we treated others not as we feel they deserved, but as Christ sees them?
As I drove home tonight from dropping my oldest two off at youth group, I heard the Tauren Well’s song, “Known“. There is a line in the song that says, “I’m fully known and loved by you.” This is the love God has for each one of us. He knows us completely, yet loves us unrelentingly.
He knows what happened at that party all those years ago. Both Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford are fully known by God. There is nothing hidden from Him. But his response is not to run away from them. It is to love them.
All scripture references are from the New International Version, Biblegateway.com
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment. Signet Classic, 1968. Print.