My good friends of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity proclaim their slogan, “Friendship is essential to the soul.” Although I’d never trade in my beloved brotherhood of Alpha Phi Alpha, I can’t help but to agree with them. As a result of the recent Youth Equipped to Serve (YES) trip to Newport News, I would dare add two other essentials that we often make light of in our society.
For years, people half-jokingly note that a wineo will share his last sip of wine with his buddy. From what I have observed from those who attend church meal programs and homeless shelters, those who are down on their luck have few problems sharing a table with one another. Sometimes they pass each other on the same street corners. Those who have homes and can’t afford full refrigerators know that they aren’t that far removed from their brothers & sisters who reside under the overpasses. Rev. Bruce, Curtis, and the others who run the homeless programs at St. Paul’s Episcopal are not overlords giving charity to wayward riff-raff. No, they are friends of these men and women who have come to know and trust them. The providers and those being provided for share d compassion and love as well as a meal.
From an interview with Ancient Faith Radio, I heard that compassion means to co-suffer with someone. When it comes to people who are financially and materially less fortunate, I think the word gets re-defined with doing something good so you can feel good. Everyone likes giving a gift for “Angel Tree” or “Toys For Tots” during the holidays. But, that kid doesn’t look as cute in March when the clothes are outgrown and toys are broken. Friendship has to be more than just kind acts to produce rose garden moments. What we really need in the world is to be able to accept the aromas of urine and weed and see that such odors do not detract from our fellow human as the image of God.
Along with compassion, we need a better understanding of what love really is. As we make our way through the world’s marketplaces, there is too strong a tendency to confine love to “me, my four, and no more.” This confinement closes us off not only from giving, but receiving love as well. The biblical definition of love (I Corinthians 13) is extensive and is to be applied to all, even enemies. Because we have so deeply blended the term with our own desires and egos, those who are against us are likely to come from the very ones we care for the most.
It is important for us to extend the borders of friendship, compassion, and love. All three are essential in our relationship to Christ and one another. He showed them by becoming one of us and destroying the power of sin and death, our greatest enemies. As we are all made in God’s image and likeness, living in these three components makes us more and more like him. Let’s not dwell in stereotypes, socio-political images, nor racial and sexual mistrust. Our souls are far too important to waste.