Thursday, July 11, 2013

Being Jesus'...Bowels?

Our texts for this Sunday, as we continue our series from Luke-Acts on "Being the Body" that explores how the church enacts and embodies the teachings of Christ, are Luke 10:25-27 and Acts 15:1-18, which can be read here.

OK, weird blog post title. I know. But that's because, as I thought about which part of Jesus' body this Sunday's Gospel invites us to be, I was struck by this line Jesus spoke about the traveller we now call the Good Samaritan:

"when he saw him, he was moved with pity."--Luke 10:33

The word "pity" here can also be translated "compassion," or the fantastically graphic Greek word "splagchnizomai" (try saying that one out loud, just for fun) which means, literally, "to be moved as in one's bowels." It sounds weird to our modern ears, but the bowels were thought, in Jesus' day, as the core location of love and pity, that which compels one to action on behalf of another.  In other words, when he was "moved with pity," the "Good Samaritan" was not acting out of some sort of moral obligation, societal responsibility, or some sort of condescending do-gooder spirit; he felt an empathy and compassion towards this stranger that was so deep, he felt it in the lining of his intestines.  It was profound, to his very core, too compelling to ignore.  He was with the man he was reaching out to.  He was drawn to him as with an undeniable magnetic force from somewhere deep within.

I know it's kind of gross to think about it in this literal way...but think about it.  To be moved that viscerally on behalf of total strangers?  What would it be like to show compassion with this sort of passion and physical connection with others who are in pain?  What if this is the deep, embodied way Jesus wants us to express empathy in action even towards those who may be our enemies?  How would this change the way we show love and care to others?

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