You have probably heard, and maybe even said, that one of the key character traits of a Christian is compassion. And that is true. But do you know why it is true?
To have compassion or be compassionate means to have a sympathetic understanding, particularly toward the pain and misfortune of others. So, compassion can be either a feeling or the action that results from a feeling. Just from this definition we can see why compassion should be part of the makeup of every Christian. But there is an even greater reason for us to be compassionate believers – Jesus Christ Himself!
When you read the Gospels, the details of Christ’s life and teachings, you come away with a picture of Jesus that reveals His great compassion toward many of the people He came in contact with.
- Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. (Matt 9:35-36, Mark 6:33-34)
- Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities. When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick. (Matt 14:13-14)
- And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, “I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.” (Matt 15:43, Mark 8:1-3)
- And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” (Mark 1:40-41)
- Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.” And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” (Luke 7:12-14)
In each of these passages, we see Jesus feeling compassion for the people and the situations they were in and then acting on that feeling and showing His compassion for them.
You might be thinking at this point, “Of course Jesus is compassionate, He is God.” And that is correct. But here is the good news: as believers, we are in Christ and He is in us.
- But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, (1 Cor 1:30)
- Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Cor 5:17)
- “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Gal 2:20)
To whom (saints) God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Col 1:27)
Because we are in Christ and He is in us, we possess His attributes as people who belong to Him. And because we possess His attributes, we have dwelling in us the ability to be compassionate just as our Lord was and is! That is pretty amazing when you think about it.
In ourselves, we sometimes have a hard time being compassionate toward others who need it. But with Christ in us, we have His compassion to act on. We have His love and care for others in us, that result in acts of compassion through us. And by observing the way Jesus showed His compassion we can gain valuable knowledge for our Christian lives.
For instance, Jesus paid attention to the people and the circumstances around Him. Sometimes, we just like to show up, do our part, and head out as quickly as we can. Does that sound familiar? If we are going to show compassion like Christ, we are going to have to pay attention to the people around us and what they are experiencing. That is really the idea behind Hebrews 10:24-25, And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. When we get together as believers, it isn’t to see what we can get out of it. It is to see what we can invest in others and how we can be an encouragement to them. It is to show Christ’s love, care, and compassion for them.
Jesus acted on His feelings of compassion. We sometime feel compassion for someone when we hear about difficult circumstances in their lives, but then we leave the actions to others. We say things like, “That’s the Pastor’s responsibility, or that’s what leadership should be doing, or isn’t so and so over that ministry?” But Jesus didn’t leave serving others up to someone else, He showed His own compassion in His own way, and we can do the same. First Peter 3:8 states it perfectly for us, To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit. The word “sympathetic” in this verse can also be translated “have compassion for one another” and the word “kindhearted” also means compassionate.
As believers in Jesus Christ, we have the power and the ability, through His indwelling Spirit, to be compassionate just like Him. Paul explained it like this:
- Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil 2:5-8)
- For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor 2:16)
Always remembering it is Christ in us who is making it possible for us to be compassionate like Him.
- For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil 1:6)
- And may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; (1 Thess 3:12)
Remember – Christ’s compassion in us, expressed through us, is experienced by those around us!