By Danny R. Von Kanel
“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things” (Mark 6:34).
Use these tools to nurture compassion and see others through Christ’s eyes.
Recognize people as sheep without a shepherd. As we wrestle with the lost condition of humanity, God will quicken our spirits concerning their need of a shepherd (Mark 6:34). Jesus said he was sent “only to the lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 15:24) and to “seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Jesus also said of Judas Iscariot, he was “doomed to destruction” (John 17:12).
Scripture teaches that the lost are “separate from Christ,” “excluded from citizenship,” “foreigners,” “without hope” and “without God” (Ephesians 2:12). In other places the Bible says the lost are under “the curse of the law” (Galatians 3:13), live an “empty way of life” (1 Peter 1:18), “refused to love the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:10), and “shrink back and are destroyed” (Hebrews 10:39).
“As he (Jesus) approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it” (Luke 19:41). Such compassion leads to tears. Such tears recognize those without Christ need a shepherd. Scripture clearly shows the Lord will be Israel’s shepherd (Ezekiel 34).
Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). We need a willingness to lay down our lives for lost humanity.
Reach out to those who are harassed and helpless (Matthew 9:36). The more opportunity to empathize with the hurt of humanity, the more our hearts can be broken by those hurts. I’m convinced every church member should go on a mission trip to a Third World country. Everyone who goes returns with a different perspective on hurting humanity. Yet, a mission exists right where we live. Downtrodden and hurting people are around every corner. It’s a matter of removing blinders of self when we begin to see the hurts of others.
The apostle Paul saw and healed the crippled man (Acts 14:8-10) and stopped the Philippian jailer from killing himself (Acts 16:28). Peter saw and healed the lame beggar (Acts 3:3-6) and healed paralyzed Aeneas (Acts 9:32-34). Jesus “had compassion on them and touched their eyes” (Matthew 20:34), and the Good Samaritan saw and “took pity” on the man attacked by robbers (Luke 10:30-35).
With what lens is your world filtered? Selfish eyes see only self. Compassionate eyes see, hear, and feel the hurts of others. The distressed and scattered peoples of this world need God’s touch. We are his hands and feet.
Put on Compassion
Revamp your dress—clothe yourself with compassion (Colossians 3:12). If Christ is your all in all, the new man wears robes of compassion, so dress the part.
Adam Clark’s Commentary on the Bible says of Colossians 3:12: “The apostle would have them to feel the slightest touch of another’s misery; and, as their clothes are put over their body, so their tenderest feeling should be always within the reach of the miserable. Let your feelings be at hand, and feel and commiserate as soon as touched.”
Compassion is closely tied to empathy. The more you feel another’s pain, the more compassion swells within your breast, motivating you to take action.
Jeremiah understood such empathy. Listen to his cry: “My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick. . . . For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. . . . My eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night” (Jeremiah 8:18, 21; 9:1, New Revised Standard Version). He is not weeping for himself but for God’s people. He’s not feeling sorry for them; that’s sympathy. Jeremiah feels empathy in the form of justice and mercy, a call to action.
Clothe yourself with compassion. That compassion is Jesus. Immerse yourself in true intimacy with the God of this universe. Clothes of compassion will materialize. Act on that compassion and see others as Jesus saw them.
Feed the Hungry
Regularly feed the hungry (Matthew 15:32). There is something about feeding hungry people that will flood your heart with compassion. Jesus saw a hungry people who had followed him three days without anything to eat, and he fed them. Elisha did the same (2 Kings 4:42).
Probably the most famous verse in the Bible regarding feeding the hungry is Matthew 25:35: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.” When we’ve done it for the least of these (harassed and helpless), Jesus says, “You did for me” (25:40).
Most communities have a food pantry. Volunteer. If one doesn’t exist near you, consider starting one. If nothing else, commit to taking meals to a shut-in in your church. Allow God to humble and move you to act compassionately toward those who are hungry. Compassionate eyes follow.
Grow Closer to Christ
Raise your potential for compassion by growing in your relationship with Christ. The more intimate you are with the creator of the universe, the more compassion you experience for others. Compassion does not come automatically. It’s true, you can make a decision to act more loving and achieve a measure of success. But long term, it’s not a part of you. That comes with a growing intimacy with your Lord, which becomes a way of life.
During the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, sentenced a soldier to be shot for his crimes. The execution was to take place at the ringing of the evening curfew bell. However, the bell did not sound. The soldier’s fiancée had climbed into the belfry and clung to the great clapper of the bell to prevent it from striking. When she was summoned by Cromwell to account for her actions, she wept as she showed him her bruised and bleeding hands. Cromwell’s heart was touched and he said, “Your lover shall live because of your sacrifice. Curfew shall not ring tonight!”1
The bruised and bleeding hands of your Lord Jesus at Calvary should motivate you to grow in grace and knowledge. Understanding his great sacrifice nudges our hearts out of gratitude to love others. As the love of the soldier’s fiancée for her man moved Cromwell to a reprieve, our love of Christ can change minds and hearts of those who witness his transformation in our lives.
Revisit Scripture in all its passages regarding the reality of Hell—the ultimate destination for those without Christ as Savior and Lord. Hell is a real place. We should be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Hell (Matthew 10:28).
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; . . . the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment (2 Peter 2:4-6, 9).
Imagine the reality of Hell. Now imagine people you know and love spending eternity there. Imagine anyone spending eternity in such a place. It should break your heart, giving new eyes of compassion.
Sometimes a visual helps. Consider attending a “Judgment House,” “Heaven’s Gates, Hell’s Flame,” or other Christian alternative to Halloween and witness Heaven and Hell firsthand. With such images, you will never see the “lost” the same again.
Seeing others as Jesus saw them happens when you: see people as sheep without a shepherd, reach out to the harassed and helpless, clothe yourself with compassion, feed the hungry, grow in your relationship with Christ, and revisit the reality of Hell. All of these things serve to warm your heart, opening eyes to a world needing Jesus.
1Our Daily Bread, www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/l/love.htm.
Danny Von Kanel is a freelance writer in Franklinton, Louisiana. His third book, Building Your Life by the Owner’s Design (The Positive Approach for Building Your Life God’s Way), will be released next spring.