A couple of months ago our church encouraged all of us to take a faith assessment test. This was not the typical "spiritual gifts" test that churches offer from time to time. It was a test that asked many questions about what you believe along with an equal number of questions asking if you were living out what you said you believe. The tests were then graded and provided an assessment on where each individual stood in their faith and where we stood as a church.
We scored high as a church on basic church doctrine. We clearly understand salvation through faith alone. We clearly believe that the bible is God's inerrant and infallible word. The test showed we stated that we believed it was our responsibility to share the gospel and care for the poor and the oppressed.
The test also revealed that as a church we fail miserably in living out what we believe. The good news was that as a church we were honest in answering questions about our actions (or lack thereof) when it comes to our beliefs. The bad news was that as a church, we are not living out our faith.
One of the lowest scoring areas was in compassion. This was also my lowest score personally. I don't know if I should be encouraged or discouraged that I'm not alone in this weakness. I remember when I took the test that I was giving myself low scores on the questions that related to living with compassion. I was rating myself low because I knew that on a day to day basis, I was not thinking much about those in need, not to mention actively working to help the needy.
Fields of the Fatherless, by Tom Davis, speaks directly to this weakness in the Christian walk for many of us.
This book was recommended to my wife by one of our close friends. This friend has a heart for orphans so I figured this to be a book that encourages readers to become involved in international adoptions. I started reading it with this expectation. I was already wondering what God was trying to say to our family about adoptions (see posts labeled under "Moses"), so this this seemed to fit with what I was already seeking.
Fields of the Fatherless, however, is about much more than just an encouragement to adopt orphans. This book is about living out compassion for all those in need. Davis points out that God calls Christians to be compassionate as he is compassionate. This means being active in the lives of all those that are hurting. This includes the orphans and the widows, but it also includes the homeless, the struggling single parents, people struggling with addictions, people that need to experience God's love and compassion through God's people.
The most powerful message in this book to me was that compassion equals involvement. Davis says that just looking at this world, tells us that we need to rethink our understanding of compassion. If we are really as compassionate as we think we are, why do we still have so many people suffering all around us? He quotes Henri Nouwen to further define how we should think of compassion:
The word compassion is derived from the Latin words pati and cum, which together mean "to suffer with." Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human. - Henri Nouwen, Compassion: A Reflection of the Christian Life (New York:Image Books, 1983), 4.
Our friend that recommend this book to us said that you really need to read this book at least once a year to refuel your desire for compassionate living. It's strange that the Bible is not enough to fuel this desire. However, as is often the case when we're not living out God's Word, sometimes it takes a fellow believer to come along side and help open your eyes, encourage you and inspire you all over again. Tom Davis does a great job of doing just that with Fields of the Fatherless.