Submitted by Visitor (not verified) on Mon, 07/12/2009 – 14:04
Bible Book: Hebrews / Hebreers
Chapter: 13
Verse: 1 – 16
Text: Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16

Some 450 years ago John Calvin wrote the following in his commentary on Hebrews regarding verse 3 of chapter 13: “There is nothing that can give us a deeper feeling of compassion than to put ourselves in the place of those who are afflicted. So he (the writer of Hebrews) says that we ought to think of those in bonds as if we were in their position.”

It is interesting to compare this with what Jesus calls the “law and the prophets” according to Matthew 7:12 – “So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.”

How will I be able to know what I would wish to be done to me if I were the other person? Hebrews 13:3 says: By putting yourself in his or her place. The first practical step in obeying the “golden rule” of Jesus is to think of those who suffer as though you were suffering with them. First you have to remember that this could have been your story, your position and then you act according to what you would have wanted if it were indeed your story, your position.

This seems to be easy to understand and implement. However, we often struggle to put it into practice. Why is it so difficult to put ourselves in the position of those who suffer? One of many reasons is that we tend to look at suffering “from a distance”. Those who suffer are the “others”.

According to Calvin this problem is precisely what the writer addresses in the second part of verse 3. For Calvin “since you also are in the body” (RSV translation) refers to the “body of the Church”. He explains, “Since you are members of the same body, you ought to have a common feeling for one another’s troubles, so that you are not divided amongst yourselves.”

When we remember that we are one body we will remember the afflicted with compassion. And this compassion will be more than a thought – it will become actions that please God (read verses 15 and 16).
To think about (or discuss): What effect will the principle of “putting ourselves in the place of the afflicted” have on our attitudes towards people who are living with HIV?

Author: N du Toit (Ds)
Language: English