Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Compassion is tricky. It behaves like an emotion — rising up within us without our willing it or wishing its arrival. Sometimes, the depth of our compassion toward others astounds even us. When we feel it, we’re often moved to action on behalf of someone else.
The Bible tells us Jesus was often moved with compassion, too. Moved with compassion toward the people around him, Jesus healed them, he fed them, he taught them, and he loved them. In one particular scene, in the gospel of Matthew, we read about an exchange between Jesus and the disciples. The scene takes place at the end of three long days in which Jesus had spent time with a great crowd of people, healing and teaching them. The gospel of Matthew records these words:
Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”
The headcount of the crowd is reported to have been “four thousand men, besides women and children,” (vs. 38) and so, the disciples’ reaction makes perfect sense: “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?” they asked (vs. 33).
Who could fault them, really? Practically speaking, this was a situation that required logic. But, when we view an event, a person, or a group of people through the eyes of logic alone, compassion often takes a back seat. Our logical answers often close the door of possibility and leave the Holy Spirit on the outside, waiting for an invitation to be invited in, again.
Jesus is not content to let logic shut down the compassion welling up inside of him. He presses the disciples to give what they have: seven loaves of bread, and a few small fish. With these meager offerings, Jesus follows where compassion leads him:
He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.
It may seem as though we have no influence over our own compassion. It may seem as if it comes and goes at will, and so we often go with logic — without giving it a second thought — when compassion might be our better path.
Jesus’ compassion was the conduit for miracles of healing, restoration, and life-giving sustenance; leaving the people around him with more than they ever imagined possible. The same is true for us, even when it comes to compassion. We can begin to ask God to make us more compassionate people, trusting him to increase our compassion quotient to just the right amount. He knows when logic should lead (and there is nothing wrong with logic), but he also knows when compassion might open the door to the work of the Holy Spirit, in our families, our communities, our workplaces, our churches, and our world.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:
How do you define compassion?
How much do you let logic guide you?
How willing are you to let God increase your compassion quotient?
Heavenly Father, thank you for your compassion toward me. Logic would dictate that I deserve something other than compassion. Help me to be more compassionate as I go through the day today. Give me just the right balance of logic and compassion for every situation and person I meet. Amen.