I love dictionaries. They are wonderful tools for discovery and now that they are online, I have a place to hang out any time of day or night. Where else could I discover that “compassion” was, at one time (1580-90), a verb: “compassionate.” I’m still trying to figure out how to use this archaic word in a sentence. And although the word as a verb never caught on, the meaning lingers.
Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. [Luke 6:36, CEB]
The definition says, “
Rev. Everett Swanson, who started Compassion, Intl. back in the 1950’s, understood both sides of this word from the very beginning and his organization has grown into a multi-million dollar operation offering people all over the world the opportunity to play out a type of doing by financially supporting a child in a developing country. But, are we giving out of a strong desire to alleviate suffering or a kind of guilt and peer pressure?
And so it sometimes goes with giving to the church or tithing or donating to another “good cause.” Our motives are sketchy. I know mine have been to say the least. But I also know that the need is greater than any of us manage alone, for the Lord himself said, “The poor will always be with you . . . ” [Mark 14:7, NIV]. And for this reason, we must choose where we give our monies, our time, and our energy and work together.
I think it’s time to look into my heart for true compassion, for those whom am I honestly feel sorrow and possibly, even distress on their behalf. Have I been playing at this important ingredient of my faith? In some ways, I have followed along with the compassion others feel, slipping along the edges, but I am not convinced that I am “all in.”
For instance, the DNA of our church is much driven by our pastor’s authentic compassion for people who are “far away from God” (for whatever reason, be it bad choices, addictions, or malaise). And the church is becoming the hands and feet on his mission for humanity, loving them, helping them, engaging them for good: we are compassionating them.
It is so much easier to generate a feeling of compassion for people and animals we see in desperate circumstances, in news reports or commercials (how many of us change the channel when the ASPCA ads come on?). It’s simply too painful to watch.
But really, aren’t their people whose hearts are equally damaged but hidden within the norms of society? They are in pain too. In some cases, it takes not only a compassionate heart but a discerning one to recognize the lost or wandering soul.
Lord, guide me and sensitize me to the needs of others, not just their daily bread, but their need for the Bread of Life.