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What is Compassion?

Do you ever think about compassion? It’s not really one of those things people sit around and dwell on. We think about exercise, but we don’t necessarily think about the oxygen intake we need to accomplish the work. We think about eating, but we don’t think about the processes our bodies go through to digest the food we enjoy. We think about church attendance, bible reading, and prayer, but we rarely consider compassion.

Why compassion? Why not instruction or theology or something practical we can put our hands on? We can understand grace, right? Forgiveness! We can comprehend justice: getting what we deserve. We can get our minds around sin. It’s the rebellion that lives in our hearts that controls us until Jesus takes up residence (and even then it still presents a struggle!). Compassion is something a little more out there.

Compassion is the love of Christ demonstrated practically through our actions. It is the unhurried word spoken in kindness to the struggling mother. It is the surprise gift given to the man who hurts. It is the meal shared with the lonely family or the hug given to the distant child. Max Lucado says compassion is quite possibly our greatest example of Christianity for the hurting world to see. It is what puts us on the map! It doesn’t complete the journey for us, that’s the love of Christ. It doesn’t welcome us into Heaven, that’s the righteousness of Christ given in our stead on the cross. It doesn’t rescue our hearts from the depths of death, that’s grace. No, compassion just makes the journey sweet. It makes the journey worth the ride.

As we develop the heart of Christ in us, we lose all desire to focus on ourselves. The person who has never met Jesus naturally lives his life entirely for himself. Everything he does is to make his life better: more money, more happiness, more stuff, more friends…the more the merrier. Once Jesus is Lord of a life He begins to alter that perception. He gives the believer a desire to give away what was once treasured and share what was once selfishly kept. He gives the believer a compassionate heart.

Need an example? Say you are in a hurry to get home. You’ve had a rough day at work and you’re dog tired. Your feet hurt. Your head hurts. You are on a mission to find a Lazyboy! Your wife texts you and asks you to stop along the way home and grab a few groceries. She texts you the list to remove all excuses. You stop at the store, gather the items as quickly as your tired feet can carry you, and move to the shortest checkout line. You notice the lady in front of you is visibly worn. She has a baby in the cart and an older child in the basket. The groceries she has are few. In her buggy are cereal, bread, cheese, milk, eggs, and mayo. In your basket are steaks, Parmesan cheese, some special tomatoes your wife likes, and a package of cookies for your kids. You feel a tug to buy her groceries. That would require energy. That would require conversation. That would possibly require giving her phone number to your wife for further conversation. All that requires time. You don’t have time or energy or words. You choose to speak anyway. That’s compassion.

Over and over in the Gospels we hear the writers say Jesus had compassion on crowds, families, hurting individuals…any person weighted down by the world. Jesus showed compassion. Remember the Good Samaritan? How about the unfaithful woman facing death by rocks? Remember the 5,000 hungry gathered on the hillside? Or what about the demon possessed man in the tombs? In each of these Jesus saw an opportunity to touch, heal, feed, or save. In each of these Jesus practically demonstrated, not just with words, but with His hands and feet, how much He loved these people. That’s compassion.

Christian’s are little Jesus’! Will you say you follow Him and not show it in the way you interact with the outside world? What good is your faith if the world can’t see it? A light hidden under a bowl is of no use! Choose acts of compassion and let the world see the life changing love of God in your life. It might make the difference between life and death for someone else.

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