At the time of my writing this, the United States—and indeed, much of the world—is experiencing an unprecedented global pandemic. All arguments as to the severity of one novel coronavirus aside, there are economic, mental, emotional and non-viral physical impacts that cannot be ignored. Very few have not seen their lives compromised by one of the above fallouts from a world going into quarantine.
Each week brings fresh challenges. Constant debates fly back and forth; judgement against those who sanitize everything and won’t leave their houses, judgement against those who take walks without face masks, judgement against the shopper standing only six feet apart and those who won’t go down an aisle if someone else is there. Judgement against those complying with government guidelines and judgement against those exercising their rights not to.
While having a conversation with friends about the often-polarizing responses to the Coronavirus, it began weighing heavy on my heart how God would have me relate to my fellow humans at this time. What would have the greatest impact, the most positive effect on my sanity, without adding to the burden of judgement so broadly cast?
What came to me is compassion.
Compassion is as desperately needed in these days as it was when Jesus saw the people at the shore like lost sheep without a shepherd. So many feel lost in these days, uncertain and angry with a sense of inherent security stripped away and a future unsure. Everyone reacts to this differently, from keeping life as normal as possible to utterly upending their routine just to make it day to day. But across the spectrum, the one thing everyone could use right now is a whole heap of compassion; for us to recognize that their reactions by and large may all come from the same sense of discomfort, uncertainty, sadness, and fear.
We can have compassion because compassion does not mean condoning someone’s actions; it means recognizing the discomfort, pain, or other kinds of distress that can be at the root of the action, whether we approve of that action or not. Compassion allows us to see and minister to the hurt from which even the most unfavorable reactions come.
I may not agree with how every person is handling this unprecedented time of crisis; but when I make the effort to see why, I find I’m much more capable of loving them like Jesus would. And that, more than anything else, is what we all need today.
What is Compassion?
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines compassion as “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”
It’s in this desire to alleviate the distress of others that compassion differs from similar feelings like pity and sympathy. Compassion is more visceral in some ways; it is not just a feeling-word, it is an action-word. More than acknowledging pain, compassion desires to lighten the load.
As Christians, we are not only called to have compassion on others; we are called to act on that compassion. We are equipped in many ways to do that: with truth, prayer, through giving of our means—which can be time, money, prayer, or a number of other things—through manifestations of the holy spirit to offer comfort and encouragement, and so much more.
Not only are we called to be compassionate, but it’s important to recognize that God also has compassion on us (Lam. 3:22-23). Our Heavenly Father has sympathetic consciousness of our distress, with a desire to alleviate it! Not only is that a reason to celebrate how we are known and loved and seen by our Creator, it also empowers us to come before His Throne of Grace with petitions in our hour of need, knowing it is the desire of God’s heart to meet those needs.
What Does the Bible Say About Compassion?
Ephesians 4:32 – Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
1 Peter 3:8 – Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.
Lamentations 3:22-23 – Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
How Can I Become More Compassionate?
One of the best steps toward growing our capacity for compassion toward others is to recognize their intrinsic value in God’s eyes; everyone was created by Him, and He would love to see every single person in the world become saved and gain a knowledge of the truth, because in addition to securing their future for everlasting life, that truth will set them free from all kinds of struggle and suffering in this life—many of the distresses that threaten to cripple them.
When we begin to see people’s value through God’s eyes rather than by the measure of our own standard, our sympathetic consciousness of their needs and the urge to help meet those needs becomes a natural outworking. From there, we enter into the question of how to walk out that compassion, like through the means of prayer and giving mentioned above.
Do you find you lack compassion toward others in your life? Do you think you are seeing them through God’s eyes? If not, ask God to help you shift your perspective, beginning today!