Lesson 7 -- third quarter 2008
July 13, 2008
© Copyright 2008
In my book (and in yours, no doubt) compassion rates as a wonderful commodity. When we experience the compassion of others, we thrive and rejoice. We want compassion. We appreciate compassion. We wilt in the absence of compassion.
The visiting minister who put his arms around me in the midst of my deep, crushing grief was showing compassion. The local ministers who put their financial resources under me to bear me up were showing compassion.
You have had your own times of receiving compassion. Were you aware of it? I'm sure you were. But it seems that we so easily miss some of those expressions of compassion, and our benefactor goes unthanked. Let's be more attuned!
I must admit, though, that occasions come my way when I find it difficult to appreciate the compassion others show me. Oh, don't misunderstand; I don't resent the compassion. It's just that, well, my pride and self-sufficiency get in the way. May God help me!
Even so, I testify freely that compassion has worked in my heart a closer "feeling" of kinship with the one who has so blessed and encouraged me. Being on the receiving end like that gives me tangible evidence that So'n'so is indeed on the same side with me.
So, swallow your pride and bask in the compassion others direct your way. And be ye thankful!
The first part was about experiencing compassion by being on the receiving end. This part addresses the compassion experience of those who are on the giving end. The one part of the experience has no less blessing than the other!
By the way, just what is compassion anyway? When you see and feel sorry for the crying child in the church basement, is that compassion? Nope. Well, what if you heart just aches for that child, and its pain at the collision with the wall is almost literally yours, is that compassion? Closer. When all of the above is true, and when you take that child in your arms and soothe him (and treat the wound), and help him as best you can...because you love him and want to bless him, that's compassion. So compassion is more than just a feeling, it is a deed motivated by the need and interests of another.
In the previous paragraph you have not only the definition of compassion, but also its motivation and purpose. Compassion has nothing to do with what I, as the compassionate one, get out of it.
Can anyone be compassionate? Probably not. The Christian is the one best fitted for compassion. But I suspect anyone who has ever received and truly appreciated compassion is able to give it. The fact is, those who have received it have a debt to pay...by showing others compassion.
Having experienced God's compassion to me, I must experience God's compassion through me.
Love first. Human love tends to be a natural response to someone else's love or favor. God's love doesn't wait; He loves first. He won't (and didn't) sit around waiting for someone to love Him so then He could respond with His love. No way! "We love him, because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19). "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us" (1 John 4:10a). And that is precisely how God wants to work His love through us toward those about us.
Love actively. For many folks, love is a noble concept, an oh-so-nice feeling. God's love gets beyond the moving of the senses and the theorizing of the mind. God's love acts. An extremely well-known verse shows us the active dimension of God's love: "For God so loved the world that He gave..." (John 3:16). Matthew 14:14 doesn't use the term love but it definitely demonstrates it and its action: "And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick." God doesn't want us to sit back in self-satisfied "accomplishment" at our internal churnings of love, empathy and compassion. He wants us moved to action!
Love sacrificially. Natural love may well move us to give up something for another. Provided we can manage without it. Or we have grown weary of it. Or we have something better. God's love moved Him to sacrifice. And He chose His absolute best for that sacrifice. No left-overs, second-rate stuff or useless trinkets when God sacrifices for the objects of His love! He "sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10b). Sometimes we sing, "Give of your best to the Master." That's good. How often do we live, "Give of your best to another"? That's love.
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