Compassion Here and There
As I sit reflecting about my mission to New Orleans, I am still feeling the effects of the movement of God during that extraordinary week. Last week Mardi Gras was in full swing and it was incredible to witness the power of God in the midst of what many would consider absolute chaos. Thousands of people were confronted with the glorious gospel, and I was personally blessed to offer Christ to a great many people. However, sometimes the greatest work doesn’t necessarily happen on the mission field, but rather in the missionary’s heart.
I have always thought of myself as a compassionate person, yet this last week I learned that compassion is in short supply not only within me, but also within the world. People so easily pass each other by, neglecting to observe the heartache or pain that surrounds them. Is it because of fear? Is it because of our busyness? Or perhaps, we simply do not know what do, and therefore we do nothing. Honestly, I do not know the answer, and these questions I have often asked myself.
Yet, when we look at Christ, we immediately notice that he was not oblivious to the human condition. In fact, time and time again in the Gospels we see him powerfully demonstrate his ability to cut through all the smoke and see things with divine clarity. For example, in Mark 2:1-12, Jesus encountered the man who was paralyzed and said to him “Son your sins are forgiven”, he also was fully aware of the religious scribes taking issue with such a statement and called them out in front of the crowd saying, “Why do you question these things in your hearts?” and then he healed the paralytic to the great amazement of all the crowd.
However, what is so amazing is that not only was Christ aware of his surroundings but how he responded to people that surrounded him.
The level of Jesus’ compassion was immense, which raises the question, how can anyone reject such a compassionate Christ? When he saw the hungry, he fed them. When he saw the sick, he healed them. He even shed heavy tears at the passing of his friend and grieved with his family at their loss. As the Scripture says “a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench” (Matt. 12:20) which in other words means that when Christ encountered the brokenness of individuals or the throw-aways of society, he brought them in close and displayed unparalleled compassion on them when others would not.
Christ saw people as people, not as homeless, drunks, tax collectors or even prostitutes. As he traveled, he would look on the crowds that followed him and “had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). During my time in New Orleans, I often imagined what Christ would see as he walked Bourbon Street in the height of the debauchery. When thousands of people are indulging in all manner of vices openly and explicitly, would Christ be disgusted? Would Christ label them and dismiss them from his presence? From the testimony of the Gospels, the answer is no. Instead Christ would meet these people, call them to the fountain of living water that satisfies every need and show them that there can be life in the place of deadness. Jesus Christ wouldn’t stop at just merely labeling the spiritually dead, he would raise them to new life.
Having returned from the bedlam that is Mardi Gras, and am now settling back into the quiet and quaint life of Central Washington, I am convinced of this, the brokenness that was on full display in New Orleans exists within our undisturbed suburbia although cloaked underneath a veneer of tranquility.
What would Christ see if he were to walk the streets of Cashmere? What if you passed him by in the market, what would he see in you? Compassion is in short supply, not just any level of compassion, but one that is reflective of Christ. My prayer as I have returned is to have the eyes of Christ, to be aware of people and to see them as they ought to be seen.
Next time as you are out, take the time to see people and seek an opportunity to display compassion. I guarantee, you will experience a powerful demonstration, and one that will change you forever.