Sharing Christ: Compassion

This post is derived from the book Becoming A Contagious Christian (BACC) by Bill Hybels and Mark Mittleberg.

Have you ever pondered what it would be like if Jesus’ ministry started in this age instead of 2000 years ago?  I sometimes wonder about mundane things, like what kind of driver would Jesus be?  That’s certainly an area where I am tempted to be less than Christ-like. 😉 I’m sure if Jesus began his ministry today he would attract quite an audience.  Crowds followed him then because he healed and fed them.  He lived and taught compassion and mercy.  He was a beacon.  Imagine what the world would be like today if he hadn’t come then?

The Benefits of Compassion

I personally believe every act of compassion, whether it comes from a believer or not, is a taste of God’s grace. Scripture says we are all made in his image.  What he created inside of us is good.  Sin destroys what is good because it separates us from love. God is love, which is why he is so harsh against sin. When Jesus said he’d give us water so that we would never thirst again, he was referring to the love of God found in salvation. It restores what was lost.  To know God is to know love.  Even those who haven’t received salvation can taste God in acts of true compassion.  Loving kindness is his touch that all hearts can feel.  It’s what we long for.

Jesus sent his disciples out with this message:

“As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” Matthew 10:7-9

It is no different today.  The gospel must be shared with acts of compassion empowered by the Holy Spirit in order to win people to God.

Why Is Their So Much Suffering?

“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”  Romans 8:20-21

There are a lot of things about suffering that are a mystery.  The implication of scripture is that it is necessary to drive us towards repentance.  Of course, our first inclination is to curse God, but if we get thirsty enough we might come looking for relief.  Therein we find salvation.  God’s love and compassion shines as a beacon in the dark.   Sharing Christ is sharing what he is to us; a compassionate Savior.

Where Is This Compassion?

A little over a year after hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, I went down to help with my daughter’s school group.  As is the case with nearly every disaster, some in the media wondered aloud if this catastrophe was a punishment from God.  Just suppose, for the sake of argument, that it was a punishment.  What would God’s point in it be?

When I arrived there, we went to stay in a very large vacated church building filled with cots.  The church was flooded during the hurricane and the congregation had to rebuild.  That process was ongoing, as it was across the area.  But what was the center of their focus?  It was following Christ to help New Orleans.  Besides the government, there were four major groups providing the feet on the ground.  They were churches bringing in thousands of volunteers.  We were strangers, in town for a week long sprint.  They were marathoners of love and compassion.

In countries around the world where people are desperate for food and medical aid, you will find massive efforts from true followers of Christ working to help them.  Back home, millions more contribute funds and prayers.  It looks as if God has cursed all these suffering people, but where do we find people coming to salvation?  Where they are.  They are finding riches in eternity that will never fade, despite these terrible temporary circumstances.

Jesus said:

“Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Luke 18:25

“People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.” Luke 13:29-30

So whether it’s floods, famines, earthquakes, AIDS, or some other punishment, even in these, or maybe especially in these, God’s compassion can be found.  His compassion is found in sacrificial gifts of love offered with genuine affection for others and their needs.  Probably more than anything else, this is what reaches people for Christ.  Without it, the church is dead.

Why Is Compassion So Often Missing?

Having God’s Spirit inside should drive those who’ve received him towards acts of compassion.  Why is that so often not the case?

I hear plenty of accusations like this against Christians.  No doubt, there are believers doing more harm than good. Some are just ignorant, saying stupid things because they don’t know any better. They lack spiritual maturity. You don’t have to be wise to be saved.  Education is an ongoing experience.  A lot of the time, the lack of compassion comes from people calling themselves Christians who do not have the Holy Spirit at all. Just as it was when Jesus was here, the merely religious are a plague.  Still other times Christians are incorrectly perceived as discompassionate because they agree with what God calls sin.  But most of the time, when compassion is lacking in person God’s Spirit lives within it is caused by the same problems anyone with compassion has in carrying it out. It’s hard.

What’s true for everyone is true for a disciple of Christ.  We get tired.  We get angry.  We get frustrated.  We have struggles and needs. We are given to sin just like everyone else.  We have to fight against those things, as well as the unseen spiritual forces opposing to stand up and do the good God’s Spirit is calling us to do.  That does not mean we have an excuse.  We also have a reservoir of God’s power to draw from overcome our weakness.

” I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

Overcoming Defeat

These things go a long way towards fostering a compassionate walk with Christ.

1. A Healthy Environment

Be mindful of your environment.  Contempt breeds contempt, compassion breeds compassion. Get out of a heartless environment if you can’t bring love into it.  If you are trapped, seek prayer and help to overcome it.

2. Healthy Examples

Learn from what others are doing. Look for people serving the needs you think you can fill.  See how they do it. Find your opportunity.

3. Practice

It takes practice to form a compassionate mindset, grow skills, and learn habits.  It takes exercise to get in compassionate shape.  The heart frosts over from disuse.

4. A Healthy Pace of Life

Too much busyness leaves no time or opportunity for compassion.  We need to slow down in order to see other’s needs, else they speed by like a blur.

5. Balance

To have compassion for others you must be merciful to yourself, or you will end up having no personal resources to draw from.  There are more needs than any person can meet.  No one can do it all.  Don’t forget, you have needs too.

5. Forgiveness

Let go of bitterness you may feel from those who failed to show you compassion, though they should have. Let God deal with that.  It’s his burden to field, not yours.

Next in this series: Sharing Christ: Give It Up

Previous: Sharing Christ: Get Real

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