I have to be honest, sometimes I don’t feel all that compassionate. I am on staff at Argyle UMC and part of my responsibilities under Congregational Care are to consider when it’s appropriate to help people with charity. When people come in to the church and need help (usually with financial assistance), I have to weigh the situation to see if it’s appropriate for the church to help. We have guidelines to help make the decision and sometimes I say yes and sometimes I say no. I pray every day for God to help me discern what He wants me to do and I take being prudent with church resources very seriously. I have to admit there are times when I can relate to what God said when speaking of the Israelites, he told to Jeremiah in chapter 15, “I am tired of showing compassion”. Sometimes I tire of the requests because there can be many and have to be very intentional to keep my mind focused on the task God has given me. It’s not always easy, but when I fix my eyes on God it gives me endurance to show compassion.
I have a tendency to think there are times when all of us struggle to show compassion. Jesus tells us there are signs of the end of the age and in Matthew 24:12, Jesus says, “Because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many will grow cold.” I wonder if it’s possible that in the midst of so much terror and tragedy in our world today that we could become cold or numb. Honestly, it seems that daily we are waking up to another shooting or terror attack. It would almost make sense to put up a wall to protect ourselves of the daily violence happening in our world.
I don’t believe that we want to grow cold, but I could see us becoming numb and cold to the world around us simply as a way of coping. How do we keep that from happening when so much is going on around us?
How do we deal when another terror attack has occurred by those who hate Christians?
How do we keep our compassion for others and how do we honor what Jesus said when tells us to love our neighbor as our self when it seems our neighbor hates us?
Why is it important to be compassionate toward others?
What happens if we are no longer compassionate?
Well the good news is this…
Our God is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth (Psalm 86:15) and because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail (Lamentations 3:22).
Could it be this is how we are set apart as believers in Jesus Christ? When we understand the compassion God had for us through sending his son Jesus, this motivates us to be compassionate toward others.
It’s no surprise that the Hebrew and Greek words translated “compassion” in the Bible mean “to have mercy, to feel sympathy and to have pity.” To be a compassionate disciple means you respond to the suffering and are motivated with a desire to help others.
Compassion always leads to action.
God took action showing compassion when He sent Jesus (John 3:16-17).
In the New Testament, we find Jesus exemplifying all of the Father’s attributes, including His compassion. Here are just a few examples:
- Jesus saw His friends weeping at the grave of Lazarus, He felt compassion for them and wept alongside them (John 11:33-35).
- Jesus was moved with compassion for the suffering of others and went to all the towns and villages, teaching, preaching, and healing every disease and sickness (Matthew 9:35-36)
- Matthew’s gospel tells us Jesus had gone to a remote place by boat and when he came ashore, the people were waiting (a huge crowd). He felt compassion for them and healed them before he divided up the five loaves and two fish to feed the 5,000(Matthew 14:14).
- Jesus had compassion on the crowds (Mark 6:34). When He saw the crowds as sheep without a shepherd. He had compassion for them, for they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he prayed for workers to send out into the harvest.
You see there are many people out there worn out and weary, they don’t know God and they are sheep without a shepherd. Maybe you are like the worker Jesus prayed for to send out into the harvest. People need to hear the good news that Jesus is the Great Shepherd who loves them.
When asked what was the greatest commandment, Jesus responded that it is to love God with all our heart, mind and strength, Then he added, love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:34-40).
Love your God with all our heart, mind and strength means you have to spend time with God developing the same character of compassion as God. Seek God in asking what He wants you to do and realize that compassion has to be nurtured and practiced. Start by spending time in the scriptures and praying, being in church worship and community with other believers. If possible, seek one or two people to meet with on a regular basis and talk about the scriptures. You would decide before the meeting what book of the Bible to read before the meeting. Admit to each other where you have failed or sinned recently. Remind each other of God’s forgiveness and grace. Then ask each other some questions such as “where have you wasted time this week?” We are calling this DNA (Disciple, Nurture, Accountability) teams. John Wesley called them “Holy Clubs”.
What does the second commandment look like when it says to love your neighbor as yourself? Honestly, that is not all that hard unless you are not in a good place due to depression or anxiety. Most of us, love ourselves pretty well so when we think about loving someone else like our self, we should be able to imagine it.
In Luke chapter 10, an expert in the law asked, “who is my neighbor”. I think we ask this same question. Like God, who is my neighbor? Is it literally my neighbor, my coworker, my friend at school, the person I’m standing next to in line at Starbucks or the grocery store?
Jesus took that question “who is my neighbor” and told the parable of the Good Samaritan and how a man was on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho and how robbers stripped him and beat him up, left him half dead on the road. A priest and a Levite saw the man and passed by on the other side. Then a Good Samaritan came along and had compassion on the man and took care of him, he bandaged his wounds, put him on his own animal, took him to the hotel, then the next day, he gave money to the hotel clerk for the man to stay longer and said he would reimburse him for whatever the guy spent over what he gave. So who is our neighbor? Everyone?
God, who do you want me to love?
Those with a different lifestyle?
Different political views?
I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other. John 13:34-35 NIV
So when we love everyone that means people who are different from us, different lifestyle, different color, different politics, different culture, different values.
Understanding how important it is to reach others and being intentional about showing God’s love should move us to be compassionate disciples.
And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. Ephesians 4:32
If you have not accepted the forgiveness of sin through Christ, then you are not going to understand how important it is to forgive others. I invite you to accept the forgiveness offered by Jesus Christ and start a new life with him.
Also, know that being compassionate may cost you something. It may cost you time which is a great commodity in the age in which we live. God may move you to a new place in serving or in mission. If you believe in what you are doing in following God’s call to compassion, you won’t mind giving up what’s necessary to follow Him.
Compassion always leads to action.
Imagine what our world would look like if we were all kind and compassionate toward others. We have to understand where people are that don’t know God, they are just doing the best they know how. I would like to challenge you to pray and ask God how you could show compassion to someone.
Robin Williams in the movie Dead Poets Society was trying to inspire and move his students when he told them, “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world!!”
We have a legacy left for us by Christians who have gone before us? Some of them, because of their words and ideas changed our world. What would the people who are in heaven say to us if they could communicate with us? What if we could see from their perspective on how to do life here?
I think they might say something like this to us…
Carpe diem brothers and sisters in Christ!
Seize the day and go live an extraordinary compassionate life in the Lord Jesus!!