I’ve known and worked with a wide diversity of people in the last 40 years of pastoring and teaching. I’ve worked with people who lived in homes that were so big and so beautiful; frankly, it made me nervous to go inside. And, I can remember a fellow with crooked teeth and scars on his face who, every Sunday, walked from the Union Gospel Mission to sit on the second row in church.
Here is what I know: Scratch any person, and they will bleed. Everybody carries a load. I would like to put a badge on every person that reads, CAUTION! HUMAN BEING. HANDLE WITH CARE.
As followers of Jesus Christ, you would think we would be great at handling human beings with care. But, we have a problem, the problem of statues. You have seen a statue in the park. Some military hero, statesman, or explorer; they stand there undaunted and unchanging. Wind, rain, snow, or pigeons, it does not phase the statue. Nothing ruffles them.
That’s fine for statues, but it won’t work for living, breathing, bleeding, and healing followers of Jesus. It just doesn’t work when we treat each other like statues, or act like statues ourselves. When I hurt, I don’t need a statue, a caricature of a Christian. I need a real person who knows what it is to bleed, cry, and hurt. That’s compassion, “to suffer with” someone.
Compassion requires two eyes. With one eye, I see that everything in my brother or sisters heart is also in my heart. When they are angry, vengeful, or hateful, I know that if I look, I will find that in my heart also. When they doubt, question, and feel like giving up, I can find the seeds of these emotions in me. When I can see in myself when I see in my brother or sister, I cannot point a finger of accusation. I must stretch out a hand of understanding.
Compassion requires a second eye. I must also see the potential, the presence, the power of Jesus Christ. Jesus can take that anger and turn it into love. He can take doubt and create faith. He can give hope to the one that’s desperate.
The eyes of compassion will change the way that you see people. When you see a stranger, greet him with some of the anticipation with which we will greet the Lord at His return. When you pick up your infant in the middle of the night, you see the child with the tenderness with which you would see the Babe of Bethlehem.
Here is a passage of Scripture that demonstrates compassion (Matthew 25:34-40):
34 Then the King will say to those to His right,
King: Come here, you beloved, you people whom My Father has blessed. Claim your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of creation. 35 You shall be richly rewarded, for when I was hungry, you fed Me. And when I was thirsty, you gave Me something to drink. I was alone as a stranger, and you welcomed Me into your homes and into your lives. 36 I was naked, and you gave Me clothes to wear; I was sick, and you tended to My needs; I was in prison, and you comforted Me.
37 Even then the righteous will not have achieved perfect understanding and will not recall these things.
Righteous: Master, when did we find You hungry and give You food? When did we find You thirsty and quinch Your thirst? 38 When did we find You a stranger and welcome You in, or find You naked and clothe You? 39 When did we find You sick and nurse You to health? When did we visit You when You were in prison?
King:40 I tell you this: whenever you saw a brother or sister hungry or cold, whatever you did to the least of these, so you did to Me.
Copyright © Richard Leslie Parrott, Ph.D.