Values — COMPASSION — Doing Something About It
“Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.” Psalm 51:1
Compassion — sympathetic awareness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it
Literal meaning – “to suffer together.”
Among emotion researchers, it is defined as the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering (source: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/compassion/definition)
Compassion differs from sympathy or empathy in that it motivates beyond feelings of shared grief, stress or sorrow to take action directed toward alleviating distress, grief or sorrow. Compassion in the heart of the believer is the gift of God that empowers us, like Jesus, to go beyond just relating to the suffering in the world to actively engaging ourselves in ministry that works to relieve and remove it from the lives of everyone we meet.
Compassion is no respecter of persons. It is makes no distinction between rich or poor, weak or powerful, kind or unkind. God’s compassion looks beyond our fault and comes to tend to our needs.
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
Even when Jesus suffered grief for the capricious, cruel and violent death of His cousin John the Baptist, He still chose to extend compassion to the sick who came to Him for healing.
“And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger. And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath’s sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her. And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison. And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus.
When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities. And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.” Matthew 14:8-14
His compassion saw beyond His own grief to reach out and meet the needs of the multitude that came to Him for healing.
Then there is the Good Samaritan, the Levite and the Priest.
"But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back." Luke 10:33-35
We know little about the priest and the Levite, who were both religious leaders. We do know that they saw the man in distress but chose to pass him by, walking on the other side of the road. We are naturally repulsed by the response from them and even wonder how they could be so insensitive and uncaring.
But their response is common to most people, even among Christians. Most of the time we are all so busy going about our business that there is little time available for showing compassion to strangers. Besides this, the number of needy people is so great we have to depend on agencies and groups dedicated to that kind of service to give assistance to “those people.” There is very little if any real help we can give to the millions in need.
Now before this begins to sound like an indictment against the general populace or the church, we can rightly say, Americans are among the most generous and benevolent people in the world, outgiving most nations in aid to other nations in general ways and particularly when tragedies strike. And the Church, in fulfillment of its calling, sends millions of dollars and personnel in aid to nearly every place on the planet.
On an individual basis, however, there is more we can do to express compassion as Jesus modeled for us.
Compassion goes beyond just feeling sad for a situation. Compassion takes deliberate, direct action to alleviate the problem, share the burden, meet the need, relieve the stress, remove the obstacle, bridge the gap, stop the bleeding, whatever it takes to make things better.
The Good Samaritan showed compassion on the man who had been beaten and robbed by attending his wounds and finding him a place to recover at his expense. Jesus’ call to us it to go a do likewise. We must not be afraid to go the extra mile, just because the moment may seem to be inconvenient.
NEWS FLASH! “Human need” never happens at a convenient time, to people perfectly prepared to respond to it, who know all the right things to say, and the right ways to say them, to express the urgency of their circumstances. They will not measure up to our standard of how they should act to get our support. They won’t look right, smell right, talk right, act right or fit the mold of the “perfect” needy person. They will be messy and get everything wrong.
That is where compassion steps in to show God’s love in the middle of the messiness of life.
When Jesus came to live with mankind to reveal the will of God, to teach the ways of God, to redeem the world from sin, to heal the sick, raise the dead, recover sight to the blind, cause the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak, we were all messed up filthy sinners, lost and dying in our sin. But His love and compassion responded by laying down His life for us, suffering the penalty for our transgressions and sins and dying the death that was ours because we had broken God’s law.
Finding us broken, wounded and dying, He didn’t walk by on the other side of the road..
“Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:4-11
Jesus came to our aid and lifted us up to the highest place with Himself and the Father.
“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:4-7
This is compassion, to care enough, love enough, to want enough to do something about it.