Last week I posted an introduction on being a compassionate presence, defining compassion and offering some characteristics of it, most notably that compassion sees, identifies and acts. Now I want to look to a few scenarios where we see Jesus having compassion and how these characteristics come into play.
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
Remember the story of the feeding of the 5000? It starts with Jesus trying to get away from the crowd, but they follow him. When he and the disciples get out of the boat, Jesus had compassion on them. Forget being a compassionate presence–Jesus had a compassionate outlook! What would you do if you stepped out of your boat and were confronted with a crowd of people all wanting something from you? My response? Overwhelmed! Jesus didn’t sigh or roll his eyes. He had compassion and began healing people. You can see the characteristics of that in this simple sentence from Matthew’s Gospel:
Most of us get stuck somewhere in this process. Personally, I often get stuck in the “seeing” part. I get focused in on whatever I am doing and I just don’t see the hurting, needy person that’s right in front of me. I need to ask God to keep my eyes open to see those I am called to be compassionate towards on that day.
You might get stuck at the identifying step, where you have compassion, or more accurately, you do NOT have compassion. If you don’t feel compassion when confronted with a person who is obviously needy, don’t judge yourself! Ask instead why not? Were you in a similar position and no one helped out, so you just want to tell this person to suck it up and deal? Did you used to care, but you let your heart be hardened so you wouldn’t have to be sad or angry about injustice? It could be a form of protection, or self preservation. Ask God to show you the reason why you don’t let yourself identify with them. Remember he is already in the place of having compassion and is asking you to join him there. He also has compassion on you when you’re stuck. Ask him to use his compassion for you to bring you into his compassion for them.
Action is the obvious place to get stuck these days. It is important to remember that compassion ALWAYS acts. This may be why so many of us harden our hearts rather than feel compassion. It is inconvenient and disruptive to act in compassion. It is practically universal that people feel as though they don’t have enough time or money and those are often what we think we need to offer someone in need. I say often, but not always. I was recently going to a business that is in the same block as a Planned Parenthood. There was a group outside holding a prayer vigil. Interestingly, my compassion was stirred for the people praying! As I walked into the office, I asked “Lord, do I need to give up what I’m doing now and join those people? I have an appointment!” His response was clear and quick: “No, but keep praying,” and that’s what I did for the next hour. Sometimes we jump to drastic conclusions about how we will be inconvenienced if we help someone. If you’re not sure you can handle the disruption, bargain with God. “If it’s really important that I ask this coworker why she looks miserable, can you bring it up again at a more convenient time?” The Lord understands our frailties just as well as those of the person in need.