Of all the characteristics that Jesus embodies, the most inspiring may be his passion for compassion.
Compassion is commonly defined as concern for the suffering or misfortune of others. But the compassion that Jesus exhibits is much more than a feeling. In his book A Life Beyond Amazing, Dr. David Jeremiah writes, “Sympathy is something you feel. Compassion is something you show, or better yet, something you do.”
In this way, I believe compassion, much like its close relation, love, demands action to be true. One of the most beautiful elements of the gospel of Jesus is how he so often calls us to action for the benefit of one another and his kingdom.
This week, LivingItOut is unpacking scriptural passages from the Gospel of Matthew with an emphasis on the teachings of Jesus. One of the twelve disciples of Jesus, Matthew authored the first book of the New Testament, one of three synoptic gospels (the others being Mark and Luke), in which he provides a biographical account of the Messiah’s life and teachings.
Today’s passage speaks to the compassion Jesus felt and displayed as he preached to crowds across Galilee.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (emphasis added)
Dr. Jeremiah notes that Jesus was particularly compassionate toward the less fortunate – those who were lost spiritually, the sick, widowed mothers, lepers, and many similarly needy souls. But perhaps his most dramatic act of compassion was demonstrated in his most trying moment – on the cross. “His last acts were to pray for the forgiveness of his murderers and then to look beside him and feel compassion for the dying thief whom he encouraged and assured of salvation,” Jeremiah writes.
Though it’s unlikely any of us will ever be presented with such a dramatic opportunity to demonstrate our compassion for others, we can and should be inspired by the incredible example Jesus provided us.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)
The most legendary story of compassion in all of literature (let alone the Bible) is one that has been referenced many times before in LivingItOut: the Parable of the Good Samaritan. For those who are not familiar with it, the story centers around a Jew who was beaten and robbed as he traveled along the dangerous road from Jerusalem to Jericho after nightfall. As he lay beside the road – barely clothed and barely alive – three strangers happened upon him in succession. The first two, a priest and then a Levite – both religious leaders – observed the man but found reasons to continue walking without stopping to help him. The third stranger, a Samaritan, stopped to help the man. Despite the fact that the Samaritans and Jews were essentially mortal enemies, the Samaritan saw the injured stranger not as a Jew, but merely as a fellow creature of God. He cleansed and bandaged the man’s wounds, transported him to an inn, and even paid for his lodging and care.
In a recent message titled A Modern Day Samaritan, Dr. Charles Stanley said of the Good Samaritan’s actions, “He opened his eyes, he opened his heart, and he opened his hands. He got busy.”
“When your heart can’t break, you are in trouble,” Dr. Stanley added. “All of us should be available for our heart to break. We should be able to feel and touch and know in our heart what real pain and suffering heartache is.”
The late Rev. Billy Graham once wrote, “Our compassion for others is an accurate gauge of our devotion to God.” As you move through this day, consider how even small acts of compassion can bring comfort to others and bring alive your devotion to living a godly life.
Do you treat compassion more as a feeling or an action?
Think of how you feel when you are the recipient of compassion. How can you leverage this knowledge to more frequently share the gift of compassion with others?
What steps can you take today to bring to life your devotion to God through acts of compassion?
Set aside time this week to consider the opportunities you have – both large and small – to act with compassion toward others. Perhaps it’s taking part in, or financially supporting, a mission trip; serving at church or in the community; or even just committing to being more purposeful in recognizing the difference you can make with a kind word or helpful hand to one in need. Whatever the case, commit to demonstrating your devotion to God through acts of compassion.
Heavenly Father, I am both grateful for and inspired by your passion for compassion. Help me to emulate your ways by being ever aware of the impact I can make on others and your kingdom when I act with heartfelt compassion toward others. Amen.
This post was written by Todd Romain. Todd enjoys sharing life with his wife Jessica and their family and serving at CedarCreek. He is a communications director at Owens Corning and enjoys reading, writing, music, and sports in his spare time.
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