THE WHOLEHEARTED LEADER
PILLAR 4: Holiness of Character
Compassion in Action
God is love, and He is full of mercy and compassion. While we are developing into wholehearted leaders, a characteristic we want to see within us is compassion. We want to see compassion in action. Compassion goes hand in hand with generosity.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
(Colossians 3:12-14 NIV)
In this passage, we see how compassion is paired with other amazing characteristics of Christ. But compassion comes first as if it’s the launching pad for kindness and humility and gentleness and patience.
What is compassion?
In Latin, com means “with,” and pati (passion) means “suffering.” Compassion literally means coming alongside someone who is suffering. It is setting aside our indifference and connecting with those in pain.
It doesn’t matter if they deserve it. It’s clothing ourselves with love, uniting with them in the same way Jesus united with us when we least deserved it.
To be compassionate, we must first be aware. We must be observant of what’s going on around us. Jesus did that. When He saw those vast crowds, He first noticed their felt needs – sickness, disability, demon possession, hunger – and He met those needs. He healed them, and He cast out the demons, and He fed them. And then, He taught them about the kingdom of God.
Compassion is not just feeling pity for someone’s distress. It’s doing something about it. Compassion requires action.
“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
(James 2:15-17 NIV)
Compassion is truly feeling for another person – being able to put yourself in their shoes and identify with them.
Why are healthy boundaries important?
The key is to not lose your value in the process. If you lose your value, you end up over-giving or doing too much to the point that you’re over-sacrificing and possibly enabling others in their dysfunction or possibly become codependent in that relationship. We need to find a healthy balance and have healthy boundaries.
It’s super important for us to be able to recognize what healthy boundaries look like. We don’t want to misuse the concept of boundaries as an excuse to stay disconnected from people and do nothing and not have compassion. We don’t want to ignore people’s needs because we’re afraid of becoming enablers. It’s a fine line. We must prayerfully consider each situation, asking God how to best help them. And, you know, God might tell us to do something which might not be our first instinct.
For example, after the great tsunami in Thailand, the fishermen on the coast had lost everything – literally, every material thing they owned. And the government was helping them with the housing situation, and some relief agencies were providing food and clothing. But one Christian relief agency gave them materials to rebuild their boats. That got them out of dependence and back into their livelihood, so they could provide for their families. It was compassion that looked into the future and not just at the immediate needs.
What will a heart of compassion do?
The heart of compassion will lead you to some amazing things. We know that our God is a compassionate God. Clothing ourselves with compassion means we first must subdue the censorious, critical, untender part of our hearts. And then we follow the example Jesus set, looking around, seeing those in need, and doing what God’s leads us to do to come alongside them and help them.
What is the opposite of compassion?
Judging others is the opposite of feeling compassion for them. Here’s the thing. You can’t judge somebody and have compassion at the same time. So, if you’re looking at a homeless person on the side of the road, you cannot judge them and have compassion for them at the same time. If you see someone in need, you cannot judge them and have compassion for them simultaneously. Even if there’s sin in their life or addictions or poor choices, you cannot judge them and have love and compassion at the same time.
So, make sure you stay in compassion. Learn how to get outside of yourself and think about that other person. This is a kind of heart check, right? Check your Guardian – is Guardian setting healthy boundaries? Or is Guardian being overprotective? Ask God to help you see the situation the way He views it, rather than leaping into judgment. Invite God to soften your heart – your Emotion – and stretch your heart of compassion. Ask Him to show your Function how to be His hands and feet to those who are hurting.
Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another,
be compassionate, and humble. (1 Peter 3:8 NIV)
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