Compassion. This word shows up so often right before Jesus does many of his great Works. Compassionate is one of the many words that describes our Savior’s character, but what if Jesus was an uncompassionate Christ?
What if Jesus wasn’t moved by compassion? It’s safe to say that people would have missed out on healings, forgiveness of sins and the biggest fish fry to ever take place in the Milky Way.
Compassion in Latin means “to suffer with,” not to be confused with pity or feeling
sorry for. In other words, to have compassion, one must feel deep sympathy to the point where their pain becomes your pain. It isn’t easy to get there if one is self-focused or not willing to fully immerse yourself in other’s pain.
Besides his death on the cross, one of Jesus’ biggest acts of compassion was his
incarnation. Jesus, who is in eternal relation to the Father and Spirit, willingly humbled himself and chose to assume human nature in obedience to his Father and for our salvation (Phil. 2:6-8). Jesus knew it was necessary to put on flesh to relate to us.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but
we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.”
The difficult piece about compassion is that it involves doing. “A compassionate response to suffering requires that one be moved by the suffering of the other, act to remove the immediate effects of the suffering, and respond at length to correct the structures which nmay have given rise to the suffering itself.” (New Dictionary of Christian Ethics, ed. D. J.
Atkinson & D. F. Field [Downers Grove, Illinois, InterVarsity Press], p. 244).
Jesus’ compassion addressed many different areas. I want to look at two areas that
would have suffered if Jesus was an uncompassionate Christ. These areas should challenge us to ask and strive for Christ-like compassion.
When Jesus looked at a person, he saw the whole person, the spiritual and the physical. When the three guys lowered their paralyzed friend from atop of a roof, Jesus’ first response was to notice their faith and forgive him of his sin. Jesus stayed in proximity to those who were the undesirables, the marginalized and the sinners. Jesus was interested in the soul. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. “Mark 2: 17. Like a doctor, Jesus was honored to be among the sick no matter how grotesque the disease may have been. His compassion for the lost and desperate drew him to be with them and show them the way.
Like the Pharisees, those in Christ can look at certain people, and because of sin or the
lifestyle they live, we choose who is worthy of our compassion. Jesus challenges us to be generous with compassion because we are all in deep need of a Savior.
Simply “Preaching the Gospel” is not the great commission. The Great Commission that Jesus stated was this: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matt 28 :18-20
The difference is relationship. The bar has been set by Jesus to disciple
people, which means entering into people’s messy lives (side note: we are all messy). What happens when you get close to someone is you begin to have compassion for them, all of who they are. An implication of making disciples is preaching the gospel. Preaching the gospel implies that you have compassion for someone’s soul, but making disciples will draw you to have compassion for their soul, body, health, family condition, spiritual growth, court case, job, finances, etc. The good news of Jesus doesn’t end at us being saved and heaven bound. The gospel transforms all areas of our lives.
Jesus brought hope where people had abandoned hope. He declared forgiveness
where people were tormented by guilt. He brought inner release where people were oppressed by evil spirits. He brought healing where there was sickness. He fed the hungry where there was hunger. He gave voice and dignity to the adulterous woman. He engaged and tore down walls of tribal/racial divides. It is safe to say that compassion is concerned for people’s spiritual and social problems.
An uncompassionate Christ would have not only been detrimental to our spiritual wellness, but all areas of our lives. Jesus’ walk was a compassion filled walk. As we move to look more like Christ let’s ask him to give us the power to be compassionate.