This is the final post in our compassion series. We look a bit of a break from the series in mid August to bring to you a very special post written by my wife Becky. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, you should. Her one post has received more hits than any of the posts that I have written. It is worth your time to check it out. You kind find it here.
Since we’ve taken a break from our compassion series, here is a short recap of what we covered. In order to be people of compassion we must:
One, have our hearts break for the things that break God’s heart.
Two, see people the way Jesus does; as an end in of themselves, not a means to an end.
Three, realize that often times there is a story behind the circumstances of people’s lives.
I have this strange memory from high school. It is one of those moments that I don’t think I will ever forget. I have this vivid memory of sitting at lunch one day with a group of friends; there were about fourteen of us packed around a table talking about what high school boys talk about at lunch, sports, girls, music and movies. In all honesty, I can’t remember the specifics of what we were discussing, but what I do remember is looking over my friend’s shoulder to see this girl sitting by herself at an empty lunch table, crying. It wasn’t a gentle cry with a few sniffles, she was sobbing, so much so you could hear it. And the look on her face was one of excruciating emotional pain.
I didn’t know this girl’s name, but I knew who she was from seeing her around the school hallways. And the only thing that I really knew about her, was that she didn’t have that many friends. She often walked the halls alone enduring the comments made by the people she passed.
But what really got me about this scene in the lunch room, was when she picked her head up from the table and gave this look around the room that communicated,
Does anyone care that I’m hurting? Does anyone realized that I am in pain?
Is anyone going to ask what is wrong? Is anyone going to come and comfort me?
Her glance around the room was a matter of seconds, but to her I bet it felt like a life time. No one came….. No one reacted….. No one stepped in….. That was the moment that broke my heart. That was the moment that I have never been able to forget. Here was this girl, “harassed and helpless like a sheep without a shepherd (Matt. 9v36)” and no came to her side. My heart sank for her.
My guess is that a lot of people have experienced situations like this, and I imagine that a fair number of people have had similar reactions to the scenes they have witnessed:
maybe it’s seeing a homeless person digging out scraps of food from a city trash can,
maybe it’s witnessing someone being treated unfairly by a boss in your work place,
maybe it’s your neighbor being kicked out of their home because they can’t pay the rent.
And maybe, in that moment your heart genuinely breaks for the person in the situation that is unfolding in front of you. But here’s where I think we often fall short and here’s where I fell short that day in the lunch room. After watching this girl pick up her head from the table, look around the room to see that no one was coming to her side and then put it back down, I turned to my friends and re-entered the conversation about the trivial things we were discussing. While I was emotionally pricked by what I saw, I didn’t do anything about it. For fear of being made fun of by my friends, I didn’t go up to her and ask her what was wrong. I didn’t sit by her side in an attempt to comfort her. I didn’t even go seek out a teacher to step in. I did nothing.
It’s one thing to be emotionally effected by the pain and discomfort of others, but it’s another thing to be moved to the point where you doing something about it and step into the situation. I don’t think that compassion is simply something that we feel towards others, I think true compassion is stepping into the pain of another person and shouldering it with them. True compassion moves us to intervene.
In the opening chapter of Mark’s gospel Jesus is traveling from town to town preaching the good news about the Kingdom of God and healing those who are sick. While in one particular town Jesus was approached by a man with leprosy. The man said to Jesus, “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean (v40). ” Mark tells us that Jesus’ response is twofold. One, Jesus was moved with compassion. Two, Jesus reached out and touched him. And in that moment he says, “I am willing (v41).”
I think the thing that is often missing when we are effected by the circumstance of others, is a willing heart to be used by God. We are all to often afraid of being inconvenienced. We can barely handle our own dysfunction let along someone else’s. Or like me that day in lunch room, we are too afraid of what others might think of us. While we may be emotionally moved by what we see, it takes a willing heart to move outside of ourselves to enter into the lives of those in need.
May we have eyes to see the needs and hurts of those around us.
May we have hearts that feel the pain of others.
May we have willing hearts that move us to act.