Be Proximate

Linda Linfors   -  

Open Doors is a St. Stephen Small Group whose members strive to live out their baptismal vows to resist evil, injustice, and oppression. Open Doors offers occasional commentaries and articles exploring a wide range of issues at the intersection of faith and justice.

“Love each other, just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples when you love each other.”
— John 13: 34-35

No one would dispute that Jesus showed mercy and compassion many times. He healed the sick, restoring hope and asking others to do the same. We may not be able to heal but we do have the ability to be loving and compassionate.

Jesus made his life, not with the wealthy and healthy, but with the poor and sick. Instead of seeking a life of ease and comfort, He showed mercy being proximate with others who were suffering. “Being proximate” is a phrase used by Bryan Stevenson as he practices law with “the least of these,” in his case, death row inmates. He is famous for saying that we are all more than our worst mistake.

I have been thinking about empathy as a tool to be proximate with others who are in pain or are suffering for whatever reason. Showing empathy — acknowledging and accepting another’s feelings is one way of showing love. A learned skill, empathy allows each person to connect emotionally.  Humans need empathy.

When someone close to me died suddenly, I’ll never forget one friend who came to sit with me. She didn’t try to make me feel better with up-beat platitudes. She sat and let me unload my fears and pain at my loss without interrupting. She shed tears with me. Her compassion and empathy to “be proximate” and to listen helped my heart lift a little. That day I felt closer to her, and I felt a bit restored within myself.

Perhaps you have experienced this caring of someone being proximate to your suffering. The world needs those who lift others with “being proximate” to the pain and suffering of grief, sickness, or loss. In this way, we open the doors of the Kin-dom with each other.

Where is God calling you to be close to those who suffer and to show compassion?

“We cannot create justice without getting close to places where injustices prevail. We have to get proximate.”
— Bryan Stevenson

Image by Jackson David from Pixabay