Summary: We can develop compassion by seeing, touching and serving people the way Jesus did.
MERCY ME: CULTIVATING THE GIFT OF COMPASSION
You know that feeling you get in your stomach when you are going down the first drop of a roller coaster. It’s the same feeling when you hear horrible news. Your stomach feels like it has just been kicked in. The New Testament has a Greek word for that feeling; it is “Splagchna.” It literally means bowels or guts, but it is translated “Compassion.”
The only person that this word is associated with is Jesus. It says that Jesus felt this way when He encountered the sick (Mt 14:14), the blind (Mt 20:34), the demon possessed (Mk 9:22), those who lost loved ones (Lk 7:13), the hungry (Mt 15:32) the lonely (Mk 1:41) and the bewildered (Mt 9:36).
Our word “Compassion” comes from two Latin words (com & pati); literally means “suffering with” others.
Some are especially gifted - able to identify with others. People in our church who I think have this gift are Mike Rubadue, Julie Cutler, Bill Irwin, Jamie Ramge, Steve & Jacqui Noel, Jim & Denise Bracking.
Some in the church are especially gifted at praying, or sharing their faith. But we are all required to pray and share our faith, whether we are gifted at it or not. The same is true of compassion. We are all meant to cultivate compassion.
Here are some practical ways to cultivate compassion.
SEE PEOPLE WITH JESUS’ EYES (see what he saw)
(Matthew 9:36) When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (p 687)
1 Samuel 16:7 “The lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
We are so tempted to look at the outward appearance, to judge them by their looks. This starts early in life. A friend of my name J.K. had a daughter in 3rd grade who came up to him one evening and very emotionally asked “Daddy am I pretty?” He said, “Of course you are honey.” Yet he astutely probed, “Why are you asking me if you are pretty.” She said tearfully, “The boys in my school were saying who the pretty girls are and they didn’t say my name.” Can you feel her pain – good that’s compassion.
My five year old daughter, Elle, just had her 5 year physical and the doctor believes that she may need glasses. She has already told us that she doesn’t want glasses because she is afraid she will be made fun of. I just want to pull her close to me and tell her if any boys make fun of her because she is wearing glasses, just punch them in the nose.
Mary Bartels Bray, wrote a story that was published in Guideposts in June 1965 that illustrates so well the importance of seeing with Jesus’ eyes. It reads:
Our house was directly across the street from the clinic entrance of John Hopkins in Baltimore. We lived downstairs and rented the upstairs rooms to outpatients at the clinic.
One summer evening as I was fixing supper, there was a knock at the door. I opened it to see a truly awful looking man. “Why, he’s hardly taller than my eight-year-old,” I thought as I stared at the stooped, shriveled body. But the appalling thing was his face – lopsided from swelling, red and raw. Yet his voice was pleasant as he said, “Good evening. I’ve come to see if you’ve a room for just one night. I came for a treatment this morning from the Eastern Shore, and there’s no bus till morning.”
He told me he’d been hunting for a room since noon but with no success; no one seemed to have a room. “I guess it’s my face. I know it looks terrible, but my doctor says with a few more treatments . . ..”
For a moment I hesitated, but his next words convinced me: “I could sleep in this rocking chair on the porch. My bus leaves early in the morning.”
I told him we would find him a bed, but to rest on the porch. I went inside and finished getting supper. When we were ready, I asked the old man if he would join us. “No thank you. I have plenty.” And he held up a brown paper bag.
When I had finished the dishes, I went out on the porch to talk with him a few minutes. It didn’t take a long time to see that this old man had an oversized heart crowded into that tiny body. He told me he fished for a living to support his daughter, her five children, and her husband, who was hopelessly crippled from a back injury. He didn’t tell it by way of complaint; in fact, every other sentence was prefaced with thanks to God for a blessing.