A Compassionate Response

August 10, 2021

When you think about Jesus’s earthly ministry, compassion is one of the words that quickly come to mind.  The Gospels point out how Jesus had pity on the blind men near Jericho (Matthew 20:34), compassion for a widow who lost her only son (Luke 7:13), and compassion for the hungry crowds that followed him into the wilderness (Matthew 15:32).  In one incident, Matthew said that Jesus had compassion for the crowds because “they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).

Compassion means to be moved internally and it is closely linked to the ability to empathize with others.  Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of other people.  So, empathy enables us to relate and compassion prompts us to respond to other people.  In the situation noted above, Jesus allowed himself to experience the crowd’s stress and even their sense of powerlessness before responding.  

COMPASSION LEADS TO ACTION

It is informative that Jesus allowed himself time to feel before he acted.  This is important because if we jump to action without empathy, we can actually dehumanize people.  Those we seek to help or serve become a problem to be solved and not a fellow image-bearer of God who is worthy of dignity and respect.  Going slowly and allowing ourselves time to relate to someone else’s situation can give us insight that helps us to see beyond the surface issue and perhaps even identify the root cause of their distress.  

Of course, Jesus’s empathy and compassion did not end with feelings alone.  When teaching about neighborliness in the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan’s compassion led him to stop and minister to the injured man (Luke 10:33).  In the story of the prodigal son, the father saw his son a long way off, and feeling compassion, he ran and embraced him.  Compassion leads to action.  In the encounters above, Jesus restored sight to the two blind men; he raised the widow’s son from the dead and provided food for the crowd.  Ultimately, Jesus offered his life as a sacrifice so that those who felt out of control and stressed by the world could experience a restored relationship with the One who is in absolute control and in perfect peace.

REFLECTION

As disciples of Jesus, it’s important to pause from time to time and ask:

Do I have compassion for the crowds, or do I tend to judge them?

Do I notice people’s pain, or do I prefer to keep my distance?

Can I pause to empathize, or do I remain emotionally closed off from others?

Finally, how would God have me respond in sacrificial service to others?

We are best prepared to minister from a place of godly love for others when we allow ourselves to be moved by their unique circumstances.  It is in these moments when our witness to Jesus is empowered not only by our good intentions but with the power of the Holy Spirit.  May God grant us the grace today to move with compassion towards those who are far from Christ so that they might know and respond to the Father’s love for them.

About The Author

Dan Wendell

Dan joined the Cornerstone team in November 2018 as the Pastor of Missions. His focus is on empowering the church family to step beyond the boundaries of CCLB to declare the Good News, so that the Body of Christ might be established where it would not otherwise occur. In addition, Dan provides oversight for Cornerstone’s Care ministries.