“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”

–Luke 6: 27

Incredibly, acts of compassion are commanded by Christ. For our enemies? Oh, yeah, we have heard that verse many times – and it bounces off into the darkness.

It would be more in keeping if the word compassion was not a noun, but a verb, “to compassion others.” To compassion others is not only a nice thing to do for our friends when convenient. It is a command. Defiant individualists that we are, commands don’t go down well.

The pattern of the world is to fight evil with exertion of force. But forcing action is to shoot our spirit (metaphorically) in the foot. Truth requires it be known I’ve had to limp around more than once.

It is awfully easy to indulge in thoughts of hatred. But sometimes there are things we are compelled to do “not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” If we are not in charge of such thinking, first fear and then hatred will take over. Truth heals, fear kills. As the proverb goes, indulging hatred and other such emotions, as it is said, is “like drinking poison hoping the other person will die.”

Many folks come to faith because it is a consolation, and uplift, and so it is. But it is nonetheless a narrow and demanding Way. A Way requiring reflection and compassion for even the most evil-acting among us.

Folks who call themselves Christians must answer to a higher calling lest we become the hypocrites Christ decries. Discipline of thought leads to discipline of action. I can choose to be compassionate or be wrathful. No one can make a person feel one way or the other unless that person chooses to do so.

We won’t get much back for our efforts (“lend without expecting”), but we will have lived our lives compassionately and therefore nobly. I believe Christ came among us not to make us religious but to make us fully human and to call up, so to speak, the best within our God-given human nature.

Let us be compassionate; let us do the hard work of being kind. It might well be that the best way to love God is to “be compassion” to our neighbor.

The Rev. Philip Emanuel is the priest in charge at St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church in Florence.