“And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, ” Mark 6:34
This past week, a friend of mine lost her sixteen-year-old niece in a car accident. I didn’t know the niece or her parents, but I do know a few people who loved and cherished her. I was struck by how the body of Christ immediately rallied around this family, providing support in the midst of a terrible tragedy. Immediately, a meal train was set up through the end of April. A “Go Fund Me” page was started, raising almost $15,000 in a matter of days, not necessarily for funeral expenses, but for whatever the family needed to help them through this tragedy. In addition, this family was covered in prayer from all over.
I recognize that neither meals nor money will ever lessen the immense grief this family is experiencing. No casserole dinner would ever soothe my intense heartache if my daughter was the one who had died. That family would likely give all the money in the world to have their daughter back with them. Yet, the meals and the money will give this family the time and freedom to work through their grief without having to worry about the mundane things of life. Instead, they can focus on supporting one another, grieving, and moving toward healing.
This is a beautiful picture of the body of Christ in action: a group of believers coming together to offer whatever is needed to support one another. They aren’t hesitating, or counting the cost, or evaluating if this is too much, but instead sacrificing time and resources to minister to a hurting family. It isn’t just feeling compassion, but putting compassion into action!
In the Gospels, the Bible records five times where Jesus was moved by compassion to minister to others. He didn’t just say, “I feel terrible for that man with the lame foot.” He didn’t mutter to himself, “It’s awful how that person struggles with blindness.” Instead, even when exhausted, he acted upon his compassion by healing and ministering to those in need. Later, in John 21:25, it records that “there are also many other things Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” I like to visualize scriptures. Having been to the Library of Congress, I always envision that every book filling the shelves in that grand building records just a small amount of the miracles Jesus did in his short ministry. Can you imagine the amount of books it would take to record all the miracles he has done since then? It’s staggering!
To be completely honest, I don’t always act upon my feelings of compassion. Too often, I say, “That’s terrible, I’ll pray for you.” Then I offer a short cursory prayer and move on. Or I think about doing something more tangible, but after evaluating the time and the cost, I provide only the bare minimum of support. Even worse, I sometimes feel prompted to do something simple, yet neglect to follow through with the activity.
This past summer, I failed, once again, to act upon my feelings of compassion. I was chatting with my uncle about an Algebra II teacher we both had had. This teacher, Mr. Roeber, was famous for his mantra, “There are only three certain things in life: death, taxes, and Algebra II assignments.” He was an excellent teacher who treated students fairly, did his best to explain hard concepts effectively, and challenged you to do your best. Personally, for one month, he took the time to tutor me for half an hour before school in order to help me be successful in his class. As much as imaginary numbers eluded me, he helped me understand how to use them and apply them in mathematical formulas. This tutoring helped me not only pass the class, but to pass it with a “B”. After the conversation with my uncle, I felt prompted to send Mr. Roeber a thank-you card. I took a picture of his address in the phone book with the goal in mind to send a card when I returned home.
Then I forgot…. until my sister sent me a message that Mr. Roeber had passed away this past December. I felt terrible and knew that there was no way to resolve the situation, but send an online condolence. Somehow, this didn’t seem to rectify the situation. The reality is that the card wouldn’t have cost me much, just a few dollars and time. Yet, I let the cares of my life take precedence over a momentary moment of compassion. I could justify it by saying that he might not have remembered me knowing he had a lot of Algebra II students over the course of his teaching career. On the flipside, maybe that card would have given him just a few moments of satisfaction knowing he had made a difference in the life of one of his students.
I will never know because I didn’t act upon my compassion. This may seem insignificant to many, but to me it was a warning. I felt the Lord had admonished me by saying, “What if I had forgotten to show you compassion in your times of need?” I knew that I needed to repent. Repentance seems like such an ugly, old fashioned word, but the reality is when we violate God’s principles, we need to tell God we are sorry for this violation and resolve, with His help, to do better.
Some of my resolutions have included making sure I respond immediately in those moments of compassion. Sometimes, it is a simple act of sending a text encouraging someone. Other times, it is taking a few moments to write and send a card. Still other times, it is making time in my schedule to proactively think about ways I can minister to someone in need.
I also determined to make sure that I have the tools needed to carry out my acts of compassion. I have a stack of blank cards that can be used to write a short note of encouragement to someone. I also make sure I have stamps available. I keep staples in my pantry, so that if needed, I can quickly put a meal together for someone in need. I also am keeping a prayer journal, containing names of people and situations, so that I can spend some quality time lifting up those needs in prayer.
I’ve been blessed by others with many acts of compassion, but, more importantly, I have been comforted by God in times of need. He has given me peace and hope, and healed me of various heartaches. He has used others to minister to me with cards, meals, visits and, in some cases, anonymous financial blessings. In 2 Corinthians 2:3-4, Paul says, “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort. Who comforteth us in all tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” If God takes the time to orchestrate acts of compassion in my life, the least I can do is follow through with ministering to others when I am moved by compassion. And prayerfully, I will no longer have phone calls that leave me with regrets.