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Who is your tribe?

I recently heard a very moving talk by Fr Gregory Boyle (founder of Homeboy Industries for gang rehabilitation and re-entry). One line that he said really struck me – imagine a circle of compassion, and then imagine nobody outside of it. Another way of saying this is imagine an ‘in-group’ where EVERYBODY is in, no exceptions. This is very challenging and even offensive to us humans. We have such a strong urge to draw lines in the sand, to imagine a circle of compassion that includes our own tribe, and some of our chosen ‘worthy causes’, but excludes certain others on the basis of being unacceptable according to our tribe’s guidelines / ethics / limited understanding of sacred texts. It seems to offend our sense of faithfulness to our tribe or to God to have nobody outside of the circle.

I have been pondering a familiar verse from Song of Solomon 2:4 “His banner over me is love.” In the Hebrew Scriptures this word ‘banner’ was used to describe a ‘standard’ or flag under which people would be gathered to show their tribal affiliation, for example the twelve tribes of Israel were often gathered under each of their tribal banner. In this understanding, one could rephrase Song of Solomon 2:4 “He gave me the tribal name of love.” My own personal way of expressing this is: “God has shown me such unconditional tender compassion that I am now affiliated to compassion”. Imagine how different our world would look if our tribal boundary lines fell away, and our main affiliation was to compassion.

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