Compassion is integral to the church. Caring for the lost, caring for the hurting, caring for those who are experiencing loss and trauma. Pain is a very real part of the world around us.
Jesus entered the temple in Luke chapter 4 and began reading from the prophet Isaiah. As he finished, he declared that he was the fulfillment of this prophecy. Everything about this passage speaks to compassion. The call, and the heart of Jesus was deep compassion.
In Matthew 14 when Jesus had just been notified of John’s death, he separated from the crowds to be alone by boat. But the crowds followed his boat on foot along the shore and as soon as he landed, the crowds began to descend on his boat.
The more Jesus tried to get away, the more the crowds were drawn to him and particularly after the martyrdom of John, people were drawn to Jesus.
What does Jesus do? What would I do? If I were honest, I would get back in the boat and hope the wind was blowing in the other direction! But Jesus had compassion (Matthew 14:14). Matthew writes that Jesus was filled with compassion. It wasn’t simply an emotion that he showed once or twice, it was his character and nature to have compassion. Jesus was acting out of his true self.
We see the heart of Jesus for compassion in Matthew 2:2, Matthew 9:35-26, Matthew 15:32, Luke 7:13 and many more times recorded for us in the Gospels.
Compassion was not simply a good trait that Jesus displayed, it was his very core being. Yes, he was perfectly holy and had all authority, but he displayed his compassion most frequently.
It does not mean that Jesus overlooked sin and evil when he walked the earth. But he saw sin as the enemy and the people around him as fallen people who lived outside of their original design that he himself had given them. When Jesus saw fallen and broken people, his initial response was to be drawn to them and not repulsed by them, and he still does that today. Jesus hates sin, he died to destroy the works of Satan (1 John 3:8b).
Our sin causes us to suffer and when we suffer Jesus wants to see us holy and pure, set free from our sin. It is in the very moment of our sin that Jesus draws near to us to prevent us from enduring more pain and suffering.
The compassion of Jesus is on display when a sinner repents and yields to the power of the holy Spirit. When Jesus walked the earth and performed so many incredible miracles, he didn’t turn things upside down, he repaired what sin had broken.
Dane Ortlund puts it this way, “Jesus walked the earth rehumanizing the dehumanized and cleansing the unclean.”
The brokenness and sin of this world robs humanity of its original design, the purpose for which we have been created, to bring glory to God.
Jesus at his very core had compassion flowing from him like a fresh stream of water. Jesus completed his earthly mission and commissioned the church to be his body here on the earth. We are the body of Christ. We are his representatives, his ambassadors wherever he has placed us.
Do you realize that the presence of Jesus is closer to you now, as his follower, than he was to the people that he spoke with and touched two-thousand years ago? Because of the presence of the Holy Spirit, Jesus embraces us by his spirit, and we are able to be comforted and comfort others. The church is called to be the heart of compassion in the earth.
But do we perfectly embody the compassion of Jesus?
Do we act appropriately when we see people in need? I know I don’t.
When we see someone in pain or in need, we are moved to compassion if the music is right or if the TV images are wrenching enough. And we might be moved to send some money or donate some canned goods. But the moment the images leave our screen, or we leave the meeting, our compassion begins to fade and we quickly forget those feelings of care and desire to help. We begin to reason our way out of the guilt we feel.
But every now and then there is a Holy Spirit tug on your heart to help someone. And as we follow those impulses of the Holy Spirit, we find out the strange interaction that takes place in the spirit, as we respond with compassion, we in turn are blessed. The reason we are blessed is that we are living out our designed purpose, to be the compassion of Jesus in the world. And the more we act like Christ, the more we will feel his joy and blessing on our lives.
In Matthew 9:36, we read that Jesus had compassion on the crowd and immediately he turns to his disciples and says, “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:37-38). Jesus, moved by compassion, as he sees the multitudes of people who are destined for an eternity in hell, tells his disciples to pray that God would multiply the work force.
The prayer for workers must be fueled by a heart of compassion. Immediately following this challenge, Jesus calls his disciples in Matthew 10 and empowers them to heal the sick and set people free from demonic powers. Jesus encourages his disciples to pray for workers, and then he sends them out in response to that prayer.
And as we pray that prayer, we need to realize that we are part of the solution.
A prayer of compassion does not excuse us from acts of compassion.
Will you make the most of the opportunities for compassion that come your way this week?