Compassion

A friend told me a couple of years ago that he didn’t have “compassion”.  He admired people who did, but he didn’t have it.

For me, this raises all kinds of questions.  For instance, what is compassion?  Is it important? Is compassion written into the DNA of some people and not in others?  Or, is it something everyone can have?

I mention this because I told some friends last night that I find myself returning often to Matthew 9: 36: “When he (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

What happened when Jesus had compassion?  He reached out in love to them.  He told them about the good news that the kingdom of God had come to them.  And he proceeded to show what the kingdom of God meant by healing them of their diseases.

He saw people who were helpless and who didn’t know where they were going.  He offered them hope and a new, firm, and eternal direction.  And he tended to their wounds.

So compassion appears to be a heart condition which leads to acts of love.

It seems to me that compassion isn’t something that some personality types have and others don’t.  It is true that some people are naturally more inclined to reach out to others.  They are more likely to intuitively feel another’s pain.

I look at Christ, the perfect example of compassion.  He knew instinctively when someone was hurting.  Again and again, we read of Jesus acting out of love to help the helpless.

He wept at his friend Lazarus’ tomb, partly because of the confusion and grief of his friends Mary and Martha.  He knew that he would raise Lazarus from the dead, and yet he grieved for his friends.  His sorrow led to action.

On the other hand, the apostle Paul was a very different person.  He was a bold man who loved intellectual debate.

But was Paul heartless? No one who reads his letters can say he was heartless.  The people he led to the Lord were always on his mind.  He prayed for them.  He fought for them.  He yearned to see them.  He asked after their personal needs.

The friend I mentioned earlier is a lot like Paul.  He said he does not have compassion.  But I say he does.  He puts himself out for his family.  He rushes to help others in practical ways.  His heart leads to action.

Is compassion important?  Yes, it is an aspect of love.  And Christ said that love of God and love of others is more important than anything else.

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