The Faces of Compassion Part II

What is compassion?
Compassion means to suffer with another person. It means more than just feeling sorry for somebody. It means to get down where they are in the midst of their need and suffer with them. It is called painful sympathy. It means to share in the needs, sufferings, or injustice of others in such a way that we have the desire to help them.
It is very challenging to show compassion. It does not come easily.
Writer, Sue Monk Kidd, tells of the summer she was twelve years old. She had gone to a nursing home tells of a summer when she was twelve years old. She had gone to a nursing home with a youth group from her church. But she had gone through duress, because her mother made her go. She did not want to be there. She did not want to be there when her friends were enjoying the last days of summer vacation at the city swimming pool. Smarting from the inequity, Kidd stood before this ancient-looking woman, holding a bouquet of crepe paper flowers. Everything about this woman saddened Sue – the worn-down face, the lopsided grin, the tendrils of gray hair protruding from a crocheted lavender cap. Sue thrust the bouquet at her. The woman looked at Sue, a look that pierced her to the marrow of her twelve year old bones. Then, the woman spoke the words that Sue never forgot. “You didn't want to come, did you, child?” The words stunned Sue. They were too painful, too powerful, too naked in their honesty. “Oh, yes, I wanted to come”, Sue protested. A smile lifted one side of the woman's mouth. “It's okay”, she said. “You can't force the heart.”
You see...genuine compassion cannot be imposed from outside yourselves. It cannot be faked. It is something that must happen from within us.
Compassion is more than just an emotion. It is more than feeling sorry for people in trouble. The compassion Jesus showed means you see the problem, and you are moved by the need. You go out to where the problem is and you get your hands dirty trying to help people.
At least 8 times in the gospels, the word 'compassion' is used to describe the actions of Jesus. He had compassion on crowds following him and healed them. He fed the 5000. He had compassion on another crowd and fed 4000. He saw two blind men and had compassion on them and healed them. He showed compassion to the woman at the well who had been shunned by others. And, he had compassion on a leper and touched him to make him clean.
People were so afraid of compassion on lepers that they made them live in a colony away from the rest of society so they would not contaminate anyone else. But, when Jesus saw the man with leprosy, he was so moved that he reached out and touched him.
For Jesus, 'compassion' was not a feeling. It was a commitment to get involved with hurting people. Real compassion is more than a feeling. Real compassion moves from feeling to action.

For conclusion on 'compassion', turn to Part III...