For the last three months, I have been working on a youth-focused curriculum for work. The topic is about human sex trafficking and what it looks like in the United States. Also how pornography fuels human trafficking, albeit unintentionally by most consumers of pornography. It has been a difficult curriculum to write because 1. I feel ill-qualified and 2. the topic is heavy. But neither diminish the need for such a resource.
As I finished the final pages last week and prepared to e-mail it off to some people who would read and give feedback, I was praying that God would do something great with this resource because without some miracle it really won’t go far. As I was praying I was reminded of a time when I was 14 years old at church youth group. I was learning how to hear God. I learned from Him that day that I would have great compassion for people, especially those that most do not have compassion for. What a funny thing memory does. It recollects at some of the oddest times. I was amazed as I finish a small project, that was rather large to me, the encouragement came from a memory 16 years prior: compassion.
The swirling thought continues: The brain is processing and the heart is cultivating compassion. Webster defines compassion as “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” To further break this down, consciousness is being “aware” and sympathy is more than just feeling sorry for someone, it is caring and sharing in their (or each other’s) lives. In short, to be aware of others’ lives.
In general, very surface observation of these concepts – compassion, sympathy and consciousness, isn’t anything new. Frankly, it should be 101, elementary, in one’s human existence; to be aware and care about others. But what compassion teaches, unlike sympathy or a simple consciousness of others, is it encourages additional action. To be aware of other’s difficulties and struggles is one step, but to do something about it is another. What role is available to assist in alleviating another’s struggle? This is the game-changing perspective that compassion brings.
Romans 9:16 says, “Compassion doesn’t originate in our bleeding hearts or moral sweat, but in God’s mercy.” Simply put, compassion can and should come from God. How much deeper it is when compassion for others is bred from His lens and not just one’s own. Why is it deeper? Because the widened perspective and yet intimate understanding God has for each and everyone one of us individually, and as a collective whole, is frankly phenomenal.
I believe that often we view God as either a being that 1. doesn’t exist and is just a friendly concept, 2. exists, but in a big way that isn’t personal, for example, He might cause great storms but has little involvement in saying my personal need for a job, a broken relationship, and so on 3. God is both a being that has the broad view of humanity’s needs AND compassion for each and every one of our individual lives, struggles and hopes.
What compassion then does for each of us is it offers the perspective God already has: mercy. Mercy is simply the remedy, the action of compassion. God is the ultimate example of this. Our faith, our belief in this merciful compassion from God, is what saves us from ourselves.
With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all.But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him.-Romans 8:1-3, 9 (MSG)
Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.