Garden of the Heart
(I wrote the first 7 of these articles for "The Light,"
a Quarterly Newsletter put out by His Light On The Hill.)
A Heart of Compassion
As I look at the world today I see people who find great value and meaning in their lives by helping people and I see others who are self absorbed, or whose lives are consumed by work, television, video games or an assortment of other things. Even in the church, people are easily consumed by ministry work, being lead away from being obedient to the 2 most important commandments in Scripture: The first being to love God and the second, to love people. (Mark 12:28-31)
From the beginning of my walk with God, He impressed on me the absolute foundational importance of the understanding and development of love in our lives as Believers (see 1 Corinthians 13.) Now in this New Year (2006) He’s showing me that one of the fruits of love that He wants us to develop is compassion.
Compassion is defined in the dictionary as: 1. “The humane quality of understanding the suffering of others and wanting to do something about it;” 2. “Deep awareness and sympathy for another’s suffering.” Compassions goals are to meet the psychological and social needs of people.
Looking into scripture I found 105 references to compassion. God is shown as a compassionate God. In fact, it’s compassion that lead Jesus to heal people. Matthew 14:14 “ When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.”
But that’s not the only thing Jesus did out of a heart of compassion.
He also fed people, Matthew 15:32 [ Four Thousand Fed ] “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."” His compassion brought sight to the blind Matthew 20:34 “ Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him.” His compassion brought cleansing Mark 1:41 Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, "I am willing; be cleansed." Compassion also moved Jesus to teach the people Mark 6:34 When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.
When we came to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior we were made new creatures.
2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
Colossians 3: 1-17 are a beautiful set of instructions to us as God’s children about our role regarding “putting on the new self.” Verse 12 gives us clear instruction about God’s desire for us to have hearts of compassion: “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;”
So what does that compassion look like in our lives within the church? It may be a simple as taking the time to greet someone lovingly at church; It may be seen by offering kind words and a prayer to someone who is sick. It may be the act of spending time with someone who is depressed or struggling with isolation or loneliness, or any other difficult life situation; it maybe picking up the phone and calling people with words of encouragement; it may be by signing up to be involved with visitation outreach ministries, or feeding the poor; It may be by being a listening ear for people to share their experiences and fears openly and honestly, or for those who have lost loved ones; it may be by taking a family out to dinner, or helping a working mother cook dinner for her family; it may be by helping to train people to be equipped to work in higher paying jobs, or to help people with financial and/or housing matters…I’m sure that the list is infinite, as God’s compassion certainly is limitless.
The first key is that we desire to be people of compassion and that we open up our hearts to the Holy Spirit for His leading and guidance on how to bring compassion into the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
If we think we’re too busy, or too focused to be compassionate toward one another, what then? It all boils down to the church moving toward becoming the fullness of Christ, and that involves letting Him fill us, loving God and lovingly caring for people. Our church work/programs come after those things. Sometimes we feel so consumed by church work that we don’t feel available for people. The question I pose to myself and to you is “If our work or our programs are so demanding that there’s no time to care for people….are we, as a church, in God’s perfect will?” Lord, help us all to cultivate hearts of compassion, just like Jesus….