Two Sides of One Coin
What is compassion without justice? Or what is justice without compassion? In recent days I’ve been consumed with the metaphor of the penny—perhaps because of the movie Lincoln with Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field, or perhaps you resonate more with Abraham Lincoln—Vampire Hunter (no judgment here if you do). Anyway, on one side of this coin sits the man of Abraham Lincoln. Flip the penny over and you find the Lincoln memorial; one of our nation’s monuments commemorating the justice enacted by our 16th president. A magnificent piece of art and architecture reminding visitors of the acts of justice that transpired in our country.
Lincoln was an ordinary man who experienced heart-ache, sometimes treated people poorly, but is best known for acting on his convictions to abolish slavery and unify our nation. Lincoln was raised by parents who modeled compassion. They were also parents who stood by their convictions of justice and moved their family to nestle themselves in a community of the same values. Lincoln acted out of a compassionate spirit.
What I’ve observed in my life is that compassion without justice is pity—and that does no one any good. However justice without compassion is pride—and it is short-lived and often sounds like a clanging symbol. There are two sides to living out peace: compassion and justice. But how can we cultivate each of these in our lives and spirits?
I would assert that there is one answer to cultivating both. First, know your story. Be gracious and merciful first with yourself so that your grace and mercy towards others may be authentic. Second, know their story. Be willing to go where their story exists, enter another’s world. Until you have heard, seen, and touched the messiness of life, you will not truly “get it.” And last, ask God for that which you lack. Our Creator wants our hearts to break for the things that break God’s heart. Likewise, you can trust that we serve a just Lord who desires for us to have a spirit of justice as well. Next time you pick up a penny, don’t wish for good luck, but remember the two sides of this coin and how they might purchase transformation in our world.
Contributed by Cara Copeland, Newberg Friends