The Weight of Compassion
“When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”
Recorded in, Matthew 14:14 esvbible.org
Compassion can wear you out.
To the disciples, the first followers of Jesus, this hungry mass of humanity was too large for their resources and ability to help.
But, every crowd is only a gathering of individuals.
Jesus was about to teach His followers that helping does not begin with statistics, impressions, or resources.
Not only did Jesus teach the people in the crowd, and heal those who were ill or injured, diseased or desperate,
He also gave them dinner. And, there were leftovers.
Helping begins with compassion.
Our motivation to help anyone, with any need, must be the love and glory of God, which displays itself in compassion.
Extending compassion can be exhilarating.
Extending compassion can be exciting.
Extending compassion can be encouraging.
Extending compassion can be exhausting.
In fact, those who lead and administer organizations which offer relief in extreme or emergency situations, know the people on the front lines, offering help, can sometimes suffer from what is called, compassion fatigue.
When you try to give more than you have. When you try to do more than you are able to do.
However, this was never a problem for Jesus.
He gave everything He intended, leaving no one out simply because He got tired.
So, how can we be compassionate like Jesus?
1. Our compassion must be Christ’s work.
Jesus cared for people of all ages, and of every social class. He was not restrained by gender or ethnicity. He had a consistent ministry to the poor, and the diseased, and the oppressed, and the outcasts.
So should we.
No matter who we are, or where we are, or what we are, as the followers of Jesus we will always be within helping distance of someone who needs our compassion.
2. Our compassion must always be done in God’s way.
Jesus always cared about the physical, material and spiritual needs of those He helped. Sometimes we, in our perceived limitations, single out one need or the other, and assume that’s all we can do to help.
God’s way is to consider the whole person, and the individual’s current, future and eternal needs.
What use is a temporary fix if we do not also give the good news.
3. Our compassion must also be the Spirit’s witness.
This is, after all, ultimately, in the final analysis, when all has been said and done, our task as the followers of Jesus, is as He told us:
“‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’” (Acts 1:8)
To offer compassion devoid of the gospel is to offer a partial compassion, a truncated compassion, a temporary compassion.
If we decide to offer compassion, to the nearest with the greatest need, which is an appropriate answer to, “Who is my neighbor?”, then we must strive to build up the whole person, materially, physically, and spiritually.
Compassion offered this way, modelled on Jesus, guided by God’s Word, and in the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit, will not bring on compassion fatigue.
Instead it will bless and build up anyone in need, including the giver.
Compassion can be exhausting, but it doesn’t have to be.
Soli Deo gloria!