A Call For Compassionate Care

Some of the most evocative stories in the New Testament involve the Lord showing compassion for people. I love the imagery when we read, ‘But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.’ Matthew 9:36 (see also Matthew 14:14, Luke 7:12-15 and many others) Images of the Lord reaching out with care to needy people are so powerful because they give us insight into how He deals with us. We need that compassion, especially in times of struggle and weakness.

All that the Lord teaches and does has to do with a burning love that wants our happiness. “These things I have spoken to you that My joy may remain in you and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11) And this burning love specifically focuses on giving us joy when at present we feel pain: ‘There is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.’ (Luke 15:7)

The words for compassion in Hebrew, Greek and Latin show us how deeply and personally powerful the emotion of caring for others is. In Hebrew, the word ‘racham’ has its roots in the womb and carries the connotation of the kind of care a woman has for a child she is carrying. In Greek, the word ‘splagchnizomai’ means to have your bowels yearn. Compassion is to yearn in your bowels for someone.

‘The task of our lives is to gradually open ourselves up to feeling and acting from love’

And in Latin, the word ‘misericordia’ means wretchedness of heart. Mercy or compassion happens when we feel wretched in heart, when we are moved deeply from within for someone, when we have the kind of care for them that a mother has for the baby she’s carrying. Think about how your body can ache with care when you see a loved one suffering. What a joy and a comfort to know that the Lord offers this kind of care for us.

When He was on earth, the Lord said that He expects the same of us: ‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.’ (John 13:34-35) We become followers of the Lord when we look at those around us with love and compassion. The task of our lives is to gradually open ourselves up to feeling and acting from love.

We show care for those around us by living with integrity according to the teachings in the Word and that is what we spend most of our time thinking about: How can I do my job with integrity? How can I treat my family and friends with respect and compassion, even when I find them annoying? What evils do I need to shun in order to become a more loving person?

For today, I would like to ask a different but important question about showing love: How can we, as a church, show love to others? And I’d like to suggest some specific actions we could engage in as a church community:

Do you know any people who used to be involved in the church, but have drifted away? Would you be willing to reach out to them, not necessarily to ask them to come back to church, but simply to show care for them as human beings? Just to make contact and say you are thinking about them.

Are there people in the church community who you find difficult to deal with or understand? Would you be willing to look at them through eyes of love and make an effort to see their good qualities?

What ways that we ‘do church’ are a struggle for younger people? Could you advocate for some changes that you may not prefer, for the sake of the next generation?

The Lord has compassion and mercy on all of us. What if we as a church could express that compassion more intentionally and evidently in our church community? What can you do to be part of that effort?