A few years ago I was asked to speak at the Pastors chapel at a local Christian school. I was given the assignment of sharing on… Compassion. What an honor. What a challenge. I needed to share it in such a way that five years olds would grasp it, sixth graders wouldn’t be bored by it and the adult staff stay awake through it.
Standing in front of the group, I began sharing the story of the good Samaritan. I read from Luke chapter 10. I only got into a couple of verses when a woman sitting in the front row began to fidget. As I read, her behavior became quite disruptive. Her demeanor was that of agitation. Continuously tugging at the collar on her jacket, looking down and bouncing her leg as if anxious for something. Attempting to disregard the distraction, I continued to explain the story of the compassionate Samaritan man. He was going about his business when he came across someone in need. He had the choice to continue on or stop. Stop and engage himself in the disruption to his journey.
Soon all youthful eyes, and adult curiosity was now drawn to the woman in the front row. I knew I had lost the audience. Pausing, I inquired of the woman, stepping forward slightly, whispering (loud enough for all to hear) “Ma’am, is there something I can help you with?” She shrugged, as if to brush off my attempt. I asked if she was too hot, she nodded in agreement. Sheepishly, she allowed me to help her with her jacket. Not knowing what to do with the jacket and in hopes of keeping the flow of the sermon, I simply put the jacket on. “Having compassion is taking the time to help others…” I said to the group , in reference to the Samaritan. As I spoke, by habit I put my hand in the pocket of the ladies jacket, I instantly felt something. Showing surprise, I pulled out a large white piece of paper. Five year olds and sixth graders all leaning forward in great attention. Even the junior high kids trying to disguise it, were now interested. Unfolding it, facing out to the kids, in large black letters it read, ‘PAIN.’ All eyes now wide. I stuck my hand in the other pocket, pulling out another large piece of paper, this one read, “SAD!”
We are told throughout the New Testament we are to ‘Put on.’ Put on the armor of light, put on Christ, put on the new man, put on the full armor of God, put on love. Paul told the folks in Colossee, “Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” (3:12, emphasis mine) All are God qualities! We put on God stuff.
Compassion in the Greek is a compound word, meaning ‘good affection’ or tender-hearted. It is strongly associated with sympathetic ACTION. We not only acknowledge the need, we ACT on that knowledge.
Jesus is our greatest example of this: “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them, and healed their sick.” (Matt. 14:14) Jesus saw a woman mourning the death of her son, “He had compassion on her…” And restored life to the boy. (Lk 7:13) Jesus, the disciples, and a large crowd, Jesus healed the sick and gave sight to the blind. He called His disciples and said, “I have compassion on the multitude..” and He feed them. (Matt. 15:32-39)
Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave us.” Compassionate: In the original language, the word picture here is amazing. It is as though, we take on the feelings of another, giving us greater understanding of their plight, and help them. Like the gal in the front row, taking off her jacket, and giving it to me. I now ‘wear’ her coat of experience and suffering.
Yes, I had planted the woman in the front row. I wanted the kids to see that compassion, ACTIVE compassion can come by way of a disturbance or distraction. Like the fellow in the Samaritan story, it cost him time, attention and money. The man’s ailment he was showing compassion to was very evident, unlike some, not so noticeable. We may never know why someone acts the way they do, or what they may be feeling. Pain comes in many forms and sadness expressed in many ways. It wasnt until I took the time to address the gal in the front row, and ‘put on’ her jacket (and found the notes) that I understood her better. She was in pain and very sad. I am sympathetic, my judgement is tempered, I now share and understand her pain and sadness … compassionate.
At the end of the chapel service, I hugged the front row gal, she stood, while I introduced her to the group. I don’t think the kids will forget this chapel service with the disruptive gal and the jacket notes. They understood, WHY she acted that way. Pain and Sad. Compassion. To experience together.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur on one another toward love & good deeds.” – Heb. 10:24)