In his book, Tattoos on the Heart (a book I can’t recommend strongly enough) Gregory Boyle retells the story of a 15-year-old gang member named Rigo. Rigo was getting ready for a special worship service for incarcerated youth when Boyle casually asked if Rigo's father would be coming. The following is a summary of their conversation:
"No," he said, "He's a heroin addict and never been in my life. Used to always beat me." Then something snapped inside Rigo as he recalled an image from his childhood.
"I think I was in fourth grade," he began, "I came home. Sent home in the middle of the day … . [When I got home] my dad says, 'Why did they send you home?' And cuz my dad always beat me, I said, 'If I tell you, promise you won't hit me?' He just said, 'I'm your father. Course I'm not gonna hit you.' So I told him."
Rigo began to cry, and in a moment he started wailing and rocking back and forth. Boyle put his arm around him until he slowly calmed down. When Rigo could finally speak again, he spoke quietly, still in a state of shock: "He beat me with a pipe … with … a pipe."
After Rigo composed himself, Boyle asked about his mom. Rigo pointed to a small woman and said, "That's her over there … . There's no one like her." Then Rigo paused and said, "I've been locked up for a year and half. She comes to see me every Sunday. You know how many buses she takes every Sunday [to see me]?"
Rigo started sobbing with the same ferocity as before. After catching his breath, he gasped through the sobs, "Seven buses. She takes … seven … buses. Imagine."
Boyle concluded this story with an analogy. God, as revealed in the person of Jesus, loves us like Rigo's mother loved her son—with commitment, steadfastness, and sacrifice. According to Boyle, we have a God "who takes seven buses, just to arrive at us."
In our passage for this Sunday Paul reminds us to “clothe ourselves with compassion.” And he bases his charge on the same fact as Boyle. We show compassion toward others because Christ has shown compassion for us.