The young college girls were nervous. They had been granted a private audience with the Dalai Lama, an opportunity of a lifetime. They had been offered thirty minutes to meet with him, and his secretary suggested that they come with threequestions they would like to pose. They struggled over the questions and finally arrived at three. When they joined him in his receiving parlor, they found that the conversation was free flowing and interesting, many more questions wereanswered and asked, and the give and take was rich. It was a question that they did not arrive with, however, that would shape their experience forever. As they were leaving, the Dalai Lama took each girl by the hand and asked this question:
“How will you live your life in a way that makes the world more compassionate?”
I thought of his question again when I was reading in preparation for Easter this year. According to Corrine Ware, Jesus’ question to his followers was not: ”How do we start a new church?” He did not intend to start a new religion. He was rooted and committed to the Judaism of his time and place, and new institutions didn’t interest him. So what was Jesus asking?
Here are Ware’s thoughts: ”What did Jesus want to accomplish? He preached about inner change. His agenda was transformation; his activity was lived-out compassion. Hebrew scripture speaks of God as being compassionate as well as being holy. And Jesus placed his weight on the compassion of God. ’Be compassionate, ever as your Father is compassionate’ (Luke 6:36). His stories told about a prodigal son and the father who ‘had compassion,’ the Good Samaritan who ‘showed compassion,’ and the unmerciful servant who did not. He healed on the Sabbath out of compassion and felt his action took precedence over any other consideration.”
(Discover Your Spiritual Type, 1995, Alban Institute)
In short, Jesus’ question to those who joined his movement was almost the same as the Dalai Lama’s two thousand years later: What are you doing with your life to make the world a more compassionate place?
As we continue with our plans and our lives, let’s not forget that essential question, the main witness of Jesus’ life and death. Let’s write that question on a notecard and put it in our wallets; let’s tape it to our refrigerators; let’s take it into our voting booths; let’s pray it every morning. Jesus came not just to model compassion but to transform the world through the compassionate actions of his followers.
What are you doing with your life — what are we doing with our shared life — to make the world a more compassionate place? That’s the question.