Compassion: A Key to Living Like Jesus

I look back at my life and examine my first reaction to things, whether that’s with a parent, a friend, a girlfriend, a pastor, etc. My first reactions, either in my head or in my words, have not always been fantastic, I must admit. Especially when my expectations of what should have been said or done were not met. Whew, no telling what’s going to happen.

I remember one instance in particular recently when I thought someone was going to do something the way I had understood it, but instead they did something different. I lost it. I didn’t yell at the person, but I definitely got frustrated. It’s almost my natural reaction sometimes. And I hate that it’s that way! It shows my lack of patience and my lack of love for those people.

But it’s funny: oftentimes I do genuinely love the people, but they didn’t do what I wanted. Someone I trust recently told me this: “There’s no one that annoys you more than the person you love the most because you expect so much from them.” I find a lot of truth in that. And that annoyance comes from not getting your way or things not going how you expected them to.

As I’ve been reading Matthew, I’ve learned so much about Jesus and, as a by-product, learned how much I do not imitate Him as I probably should. I guess that’s what happens when you compare yourself to God. One area in particular I noticed today was how Jesus reacted to people who came to Him asking for help. Let’s look at two instances in Matthew 14-15 specifically.

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

After Jesus heard of the execution of John the Baptist by King Herod, He “withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself” (Matthew 14:13). Clearly He needed some alone time, maybe to grieve or pray. Probably both. But people caught wind of it and, like people who hear a famous actor or athlete is chewing on a chicken sandwich at a local McDonald’s, they flocked to where He was.

So now Jesus, who’s just lost a very important person in His life and is probably still mourning, is surrounded by all these people who know Him because He’s famous. What does Jesus do? Verse 14: “When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”

What’s His first reaction to seeing the people gathered on the shore? Compassion. He doesn’t want to ignore them because they’re sinful or they’re bothering Him in His time of mourning. He displayed “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others,” as Wikipedia defines compassion. He didn’t feel sorry for them and heal them because He felt bad – He loved them. He didn’t look for their flaws and tell them to change; He showed them compassion.

The rest of the section talks about how Jesus fed five thousand men, which doesn’t include the women and children that were there, with five loaves of bread and two fish. He didn’t send the people away when it got dark, He kept them there and fed them Himself.

Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand

The lesser known of the two great feedings comes in Matthew 15. Jesus had spent three days on a mountain beside the Sea of Galilee healing people of all kinds of maladies. Verse 32: “Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry lest they faint on the way.'”

The disciples asked Jesus what they would feed the people with, since they were in a “desolate place” (v. 33). With seven loaves of bread and a “few small fish,” Jesus fed four thousand men, plus women and children.

With what did Jesus see the crowd? Compassion, yet again. After three days of healing people, probably doing some teaching, but being around people, Jesus wasn’t tired of the people. He had compassion for them. He had “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.” He loved them. He didn’t just care for their eternal soul; He cared for their physical needs as well, and spent a lot of time healing and feeding people on earth.

We Are a People Who Receive Compassion

The great tie-in here is that the Gospel is an act of compassion, just like these works of Christ but on a much larger scale. We are a people who, without a relationship with God, are hopeless, lost, without any profitable destiny. We are a people who need compassion. God is gracious to us and, in Christ, shows His compassion, His love.

There is a connection between compassion and love when it comes to God. God’s love is often displayed in acts of compassion, like Christ dying for us. 1 John 4:10 says, “In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” He saw that we did not have loved for Him, but He still loved us and sent Jesus to be the sacrifice, to be the substitution.

That’s some compassion. Greater love has no man than he who lays his life down for his friends, but even more so for his enemies. And no one has greater enemies than God does of us! That’s compassion!

So why is it so hard for us to show compassion like Christ? Well, we’re sinful. But we also think we’re entitled to certain things and to only interact with certain kinds of people, and only have certain kinds of things happen in our lives, and only do certain things wrong. So when things don’t go our way, we don’t show compassion. We rebel and we get angry and impatient.

But that is not how Jesus reacted to the crowds, and it’s not how God reacted to us who are His people! He loved us enough to provide a way for the relationship to be made new, restored, made whole!

Let us seek to imitate Christ. We will likely fail at this again and again, but it is worth working at, because in showing compassion we get to give glory to God, which is our life’s mission. And when you fail, remember the grace of God that is greater than all your sins. It’s a piece of His compassion you get to know on a daily basis.


The Church Culture of Compassion

If judgement looms under every steeple, if lofty glances from lofty people, can’t see past her scarlet letter, and we never even met her.

I love the Casting Crowns video above because it shows what the church can be and far too often is, but also what it’s supposed to be. Initially, the people at the church throw lofty glances at the woman or try to scoot away from her. But at the end, one girl approaches the main character with a sympathetic hand and sympathetic word.

I wrote a post a few days ago called “The Church Culture of Shame” describing my thoughts on how much the church seems to lack any sense of grace with some people, particularly those within the body of Christ. I’m flattered by the amount of people that read it and have complimented me on it. Thank you, to all of you. It means more than you know.

But as I was driving to get lunch today, I thought of a different phrase – “the church culture of compassion.” It may come across to some who read that last post that I don’t think such a thing exists. But as I thought about that phrase, some examples came to mind. Let me share them with you here. I hope you are encouraged.

Compassion is the emotion that one feels in response to the suffering of others that motivates a desire to help. Compassion is really the act of going out of your way to help physical, spiritual, or emotional hurts or pains of another. (Wikipedia)

XXXChurch – Jesus Loves Porn Stars

I first heard about the outreach ministry of XXX Church on the Bad Christian podcast a couple months ago when they interviewed founder Craig Gross. XXX Church has many different facets, but the one I want to focus on is their ministry to the pornography industry.

In 2002, X3 (for short) sent a team to a popular pornography convention “to love on both the consumer and the workers there. This approach was very different from other ‘religious’ organizations present outside of the convention with their posters and megaphones preaching a message of law and hate.” Ever since, X3 booths have been a mainstay at popular adult film gatherings, where teams hand out Bibles that say “Jesus Loves Porn Stars” on the cover while seeking to love and minister to those in attendance.

Why? To point porn stars to Jesus.

We believe that Jesus meets people where they are. We don’t subscribe to the belief system that God only loves those who live the way we or religion think they should live. We believe that it is when Jesus meets, loves and accepts us where we are, no matter that place that we are transformed by that crazy kind of love. –


Ron Jeremy (left) and Craig Gross.

In addition, Gross has a close relationship with Ron Jeremy, described as “the world’s most famous porn star” in this story on ABC News. The two go around the country doing speaking engagements and debates on the topic of pornography.

“There are certain things I don’t like (about the porn industry), and having Craig around, putting things in check, or when girls want to get out of the business they might go to him, and a few have, who are actually friends of mine,” Jeremy told ABC. “And he ministers to them, brings them into the path of righteousness, and I think that’s great.”

Reppin’ the Misfits

And people call themselves Christians, with “God hates fags” written all over their pickets. They play the Holy Spirit and judge people because of the way they sin different. Social Club will always be the difference. I have gay friends and I’m not ashamed to say it, and I love ’em like Christ did and people are gonna hate it. They know what I believe and they might not agree, but I stand as living proof, look what God did to me. Social Club, “Grace Song”

The attitude that Christian rap group Social Club takes in their songs is not one of judgement or of condemnation, but of love. Their call is for the “misfits,” the ones who may not be accepted by the masses. In the “About Us” section of their Tumblr page, they define a misfit: “A misfit by definition is someone who is ‘different than their surroundings.’ Simply put, we believe in being who Jesus has called us to be and not who the world wants us to be.”

In a church culture that seems to care a lot more than we should about appearances, they don’t care.

“One thing we wanted to do is create an environment of openness and accountability…for the gospel,” group member Marty said in an interview with Rapzilla. “We do life music. We don’t do music that is centered around anything other than our lives…We focus on the misfits and the kids that feel like they didn’t fit in.”

The Christian rap genre as a whole does a great job of showing compassion to all, generally not taking a stance of “we’re better than you,” but seeking to be real and honest and showing compassion in that way. They’re also willing to go to the places others might not be willing to. A group of rappers from the label Reach Records visited Riker’s Island Prison in New York to do a concert and minister to the inmates.

From @reachrecords Twitter.

From @reachrecords Twitter.

“We were reminding people of their value and their worth, and it’s not defined by what society says about us but the intrinsic worth that we have in God, being made in His image,” Andy Mineo said in an interview with Wade-O Radio.

How many other Christian artists would take a trip to one of the most notably worst prisons in America? I don’t think many would.

A Guy Named Zacch

I’m going to share one more story of compassion that you can find in the church. It’s the story of a guy named Zacch.

See, Zacch lived in the city of Jericho working for the government. Something like the IRS. Except he was super corrupt. He stole money from people. Legally. He had everything he thought he needed. He was hated by the religious leaders of the day. Not unlike how some Christians these days view the government of the United States of America.

Then one day a teacher came along. He was pretty popular, almost like a rockstar. Zacch stood on a crowded street, trying to see this teacher. But he was short, so he couldn’t see him. Solution: climb up in a tree. Zacch sat in the tree like Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Angels in the Outfield, peering out trying to see this guy he had heard about.

The teacher walked by and saw Zacch sitting in the tree. Now, this teacher was a Jewish one who talked about Yahweh, the God of the Torah. A religious guy. I don’t know for sure, but Zacch may have assumed that this teacher thought the worst about him. But, looking at Zacch, the teacher said, “Zacch, come on down, man. Let’s grab some food at your place.”

Joyfully, Zacch leapt down from the tree and practically dragged the teacher to his home. He was filled with joy. After talking with the teacher, Zacch made up his mind. He said: “Half of my goods, I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold” (Luke 19:8).

And the teacher responded, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:9-10).

I’ll end with a quote from Tullian Tchividjian’s One Way Love:

Jesus is not being cavalier about wrongdoing or suggesting that greed, and its fallout, is not a big deal. He shed tears over our sin; he came to suffer and die for it. No, this is Jesus identifying with the sinner and loving those who least deserve it. He knows that the only way to break the cycle of retribution and oppression and heartbreak is to demolish the ladder of deserving altogether…God lavishes His grace on the foolish, the weak, the despised, and the nothings so He alone will get the glory. (p. 131-132)