Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tolkien's Gospel: Compassion (Recap week 1)

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings in order to create a mythology that would transmit timeless virtues to a culture that he feared was losing its soul as it hurdled toward modernity. Tolkien, a life long friend and colleague of C.S. Lewis, also used his devout Christian faith as a source of the virtues he wanted to share with through his stories.   These facts make the stories wonderful sources to illustrate the nature of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.  While contrast to Lewis’ Narnia, no one figure represents Christ, each virtuous character in Tolkien’s works represents Christ in some way despite their faults and weaknesses.  

 "I have to believe I can come come back"
Our attempts at Christian compassion are rooted in the understanding that we are all in a common humanity.  Each of us is created in God's image, and each of us is in someway broken because of disunion with God, others, and self.  Christians more easily enter into a compassionate way of life when they make connections of events from their own lives with the lives of others. In the scene we viewed this week we find Frodo demonstrating compassion toward the creature Gollum.  Frodo has realized that it was Gollum's carrying of the Ring that led to his change from ordinary being to monster.  He sees the danger that he too may become like this, a scared and broken shell of a person.   He hopes for Gollum's healing because he can see his own hope in it.   This is a deep Christian idea.  We care about the healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation of others because we can see hope for ourselves in the redemption of others.  We can love others more easily when we see, feel and understand what they are going through.

But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

The true source of our compassion is the compassion of Jesus Christ.  The word compassion is itself a perfect expression of the Gospel.  It is a word derived from Latin that means "to suffer with".  It is a perfect expression of what God did through the sending of his Son Jesus.   It explains both the incarnation (Christmas) and the Cross (Good Friday and Easter). God proves his compassion for us by demonstrating that God knows what it means to be human, because God has lived as a human.   The moment Jesus cries out the words "my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?", we see that Jesus is not only God's Son, but one of us.  God has compassion for us, because God has lived with us and knows what we are going through, all of it, our burdens, joys, successes, failures,victories, and most poignantly our wounds. 

“Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! Mark 12:38-39

Compassion is also a knife that cuts through our thoughts, actions, and behaviors.  The presence of compassion in our lives confirms the presence of God.   The Pharisees are not criticized by Jesus because of their piety, they are criticized for their hypocrisy and their lack of compassion.  The simple truth is no compassion, no relationship with the living God. Compassion is the default mode of true Christianity.   It is how we can discern the spirits of our lives and see whether or not our spirits walk with God's Spirit.   Compassion is also more than mere sympathy.  It must contain concrete acts of love and sacrifice for it to be genuine.  Compassion is love concretely expressed.   Frodo demonstrates compassion for Gollum by learning his real name, trying to share his food,  and even extending his trust at times.   In the wake of the recent storm we have seen compassion at work in almost every neighborhood in our area.  

Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” Mark 12:43-44

In Tolkien’s mythological world of Middle Earth compassion plays a primary part in driving the virtues actions of its heroes.  This is most plainly seen in the actions of the main characters of the drama, the hobbits.   Hobbits represent the little people.   Ordinary folks who go to work, make respectable homes, and enjoy life’s simpler pleasures.   Tolkien modeled them on the regular people he met in his day to day existence.   One of the main themes of the Lord of the Rings is that little people fueled by compassion can accomplish great deeds.   Where the great and powerful will fail because of tragic flaws, the little ones will succeed because they are fueled by compassion.   Compassion is a powerful thing.   In the above quote from Mark 12 we see how compassion fuels a simple “little” widow to put it all on the line for God.  Jesus sees and admires the woman because he knows compassion and he knows what it means to be from an ordinary little place.   In many ways Jesus was a “little guy”,  he grew up in a small town backwater, practiced a trade where he worked with his hands.  Compassion became the fuel that drew him to proclaim the coming Kingdom of God, heal the sick, and take the long walk up the hill to Calvary to do the greatest deed of all, the cross and resurrection.   So as Christians we should never fear to take a risk to be compassionate,  for compassion is the fuel of our ministry.   It is the reason ordinary people are capable of great deeds.  

Keep the Faith,
Pastor Knecht 

No comments:

Post a Comment