In the past weeks, our nation’s two primary (pun intended) presidential candidates have used one loaded word repeatedly, a word we can expect to hear again, ironically, during the campaign and hostilities ahead.
That loaded word is COMPASSION.
For Jesus and his disciples, true compassion is indeed loaded, packed with kinetic energy.
In his campaign to awaken the world to God’s coming kingdom, Jesus is followed by multitudes of desperate people everywhere he goes. Hearing of his teaching and healing power, the crowds will not leave Jesus alone. And though Jesus and his disciples sorely need some downtime (a quiet prayer retreat would be nice), when Jesus sees the crowds, he is moved by compassion, seeing that they were like sheep without a shepherd.
What moves you? What stirs your heart? We have seen veterans with injured legs or backs stand ramrod straight when they hear the national anthem. A college fight song can bring thousands to their feet as one. The plight of disaster victims can stimulate immediate and sacrificial generosity from total strangers hundreds or thousands of miles away.
Actors preparing for a role are prone to ask, “What’s my motivation?” As a disciple of Jesus Christ, what stirs, stimulates, and motivates your heart? What gets you out of bed and out the door to serve God and neighbor? What’s your motivation, your passion?
What rouses you to stand up, to speak up, to step into the fray? There are emotional forces deep within us that may compel and propel us into action. Anger at injustice… fear of change… yearning to belong… vanity or insecurity… love of another… powerful forces that well up from deep within, even overriding our reason at times.
He was moved by compassion, for he saw that they were like sheep without a shepherd.
(Tissot’s The Good Shepherd)
The New Testament word for “compassion” packs kinetic energy. This description of our Lord’s motivation conveys movement that starts deep within us but cannot stay contained. Moved by compassion, literally “suffering with,” Jesus teaches, feeds, heals, shares the burdens of the multitudes. And he bears the cross.
Compassion, suffering alongside God’s hurting people as Jesus does, compels us beyond self-absorption or self-pity so that we reach out and focus on healing people in body, mind, and spirit.