by Dan Weyerhaeuser, Senior Pastor
Compassion is a remarkable and powerful thing. Because God has made us all in His image, compassion is woven into our very being when we see pain and sorrow in others. Remarkably, it seems less a choice and more response. It doesn’t seem like we choose to be compassionate. We see people hurting, try to understand what it must be like to be them, and compassion happens.
On a day when Jesus and his disciples were utterly exhausted and trying to get to a place of peace and rest, a huge crowd followed them and was waiting on the shore. He could have had “compassion fatigue,” but He didn’t. Instead “when Jesus landed and saw the crowd, He had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus’ compassion rose because he saw people.
Compassion rises in us when we see people. Of course, we have to see past their defense and “high functioning” veneer. But when you see the pain of others, even those angry at you, compassion rises in your soul by the grace of God. And we are the best version of our selves when compassion is in us.
We become more skillful as compassionate Christ-followers when we learn to quickly ask ourselves, especially as we meet people on difficult days, “What is the pain people are carrying?” Compassion leads me towards people, not away from them. Compassion moves me to action for their benefit. Compassion even gives me what I need to respond with kindness when kindness is not shown to me. Jesus is the epitome of this, of course, when he has compassion upon the Roman soldiers crucifying him, and prays to His Father on their behalf, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Especially in these days of contention in our nation, we have the opportunity to be a different presence to people, to offer a different experience than people can find anywhere else. That experience is compassion. Our Forum last Sunday was an effort to learn to be more compassionate as a Church family, both with each other at Lakeland and with people in our community. No matter where you are politically, asking people about the experiences and stories of their past that effected their views helps you get them and care for them. Having compassion may not mean you agree with them. But it builds bridges of trust, it makes them and you more human, and it represents Christ well.
We are at our best when compassion is growing in us.