“COMPASSION-THE VITAL INGREDIENT
Motive- Agatha Christie and other crime writers are usually interested in the question of motive-the reason why a crime was committed. Most of the things we do as individuals have a reason or motive that led us on a particular course of action.
The gospel lesson indicates Jesus’ motive for his ministry. We are told that when Jesus saw the large crowd he had compassion on them. The word “compassion” describes the very “heart” of Jesus for his people. It describes how Jesus “feels” about us.
“Compassion” is also the word that is most appropriate in describing God’s feelings for his people. The psalmist says, “Our God is full of compassion”.(Psalm 116:5)
That is just one of many passages that describe how God feels about his people. Similar words used in the Old Testament to describe God’s character are “mercy” and ‘pity”. They are virtually synonyms for compassion.
In the New testament the Apostle Paul speaks of God as, The Father of compassion, the God of all comfort”.(2. Corinthiasn 1:3). The Apostle James says, “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy”.
Apart from the word “love” “compassion” would be the most widely used word to describe the character of God-the essential core of God’s being-the very heart of God.
The New Testament describes Jesus as the “exact representation” of God’s being ( Heb 1:3) and ,”the image of the invisible God”.(Col1:15).
Now if Jesus is the “ exact representation” and the “image of the invisible God”, it then follows that Jesus would have the same qualities as God the Father. So since God the Father is described as being “full of compassion”, it follows that Jesus would also be “full of compassion”. And this is in fact what we find.
Matthew 15:32”When Jesus saw the hungry crowd he said, “I have compassion for these people, they have been with me for 3 days and have nothing to eat”.
Matthew 20:34: “When Jesus saw 2 blind men he had compassion on them and touched their eyes and restored their sight”.
Mark 1:41: “When a man with leprosy begged Jesus to heal him we are told, ”filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man and healed him”.
Luke 7:13: When Jesus saw the widow at Nain at the funeral of her only son, “his heart went out to her”
As well as demonstrating compassion to the sick-hungry-hurting-needy, Jesus also taught his disci-les the importance of showing compassion-example-the parable of the Good Samaritan-“he took pity” on the injured victim. In this parable Jesus teaches that his disciples are to show compassion to anyone in need. He also taught them that their compassion was to be like his-it was to be practical-it was to meet the person’s need.
A very important biblical principle is that God blesses us so that we in turn can be a blessing to others. This is clearly spelt out in 2. Corinthians 1:3-4
“the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort comforts us in all our troubles, so that can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort that we ourselves have received from God’. In other words, since God has had compassion on us, we are to have compassion for others/ What we have received we are to pass on.
Ephesians 4:32 “be kind and compassionate to one another”.
Colossians 3:12: “clothe yourselves with compassion”.
1.Peter 3:8,”be sympathetic-be compassionate and humble”.
What exactly does compassion mean? The Collins English Dictionary defines compassion as a “feeling of distress and pity for the suffering and misfortune of another, often including the desire to alleviate it”. It comes from the Latin word to ‘suffer with”. And Jesus is our model for compassion. Twelve times in the gospels it says that Jesus was “moved with compassion. And our Lord sends us out into the world to be “compassionate as your heavenly Father is compassionate”.
How does compassion work? How do we show compassion?
In the same way that Jesus did. Compassion isn’t just something you talk about. It is something that is demonstrated. The difference between sympathy and compassion.
Sympathy means feeling sorry for some else. Compassion goes a step further than sympathy. Compassion is more that just “feeling sorry. It is more than just “feeling pity”. While sympathy is a feeling word, compassion is a doing word. You might express sympathy to someone who has lost a loved one. But you demonstrate compassion. Sympathy is about words. Compassion involves deeds. The story of the Good Samaritan shows the difference between sympathy and compassion. The Good Samaritan just didn’t feel sorry for the injured man, he “took pity” on him. He showed compassion by picking him up, putting him on his donkey-treating his wounds-and providing care- paying the innkeeper to look after him until he was well.
Jesus showed compassion by feeding the hungry crowd-healing the sick-lepers-blind –those with all kinds of diseases and sickness.
What situations-events-happenings would lead you to have compassion? It might include seeing people suffering-distress-starving children in refugee camps in Darfur-Somalia. It was compassion that motivated Bob Geldof- Live Aid -Band Aid. It is compassion for the suffering that leads LWS to assist the needy in Africa. Generally what arouses a sense of compassion in us is seeing physical need.
But Jesus takes compassion to a higher level. Jesus had compassion on the people because, “they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd”.
He saw that people were living in sin-ignorance-without a relationship with God. They had no one to teach-guide them. But Jesus did more that just ‘feel sorry “ for the people. He did something about their situation. He instructed his disciples to go and proclaim the Good News to people who generally only heard bad News.
Don’t Jesus’ words ring true for people in our communities today. Aren’t there people in our communities-streets-neighbourhoods-work places who are just as Jesus described-“sheep without a shepherd’. And the sad thing about it is that they are so lost that they don’t even recognize that they are lost.
The question we need to ask ourselves is, “Do I have compassion for my lost neighbours-collegues-work mates in their ignorance of Jesus?
After speaking about his compassion for the lost Jesus turns and says to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few .Pray the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers into his harvest”. The first thing to do is to Pray. Because prayer tunes us into the heart of God. Prayer helps us to focus on others and their needs. As the songs says, “Change my heart O God may I be like you”-full of compassion.
“Change my heart O God, make it ever true.
Change my heart O God may I be like you,
You are the Potter I am the clay,
Mould me and make me this is what I pray’
May the Holy Spirit change our hearts to be like Jesus-full of compassion. Amen.
Pastor Haydn Blaess