Here is a rough version of an article I’ve written for Boundless.org.
What do you think?
With a sharply divided presidential election in the history books, the question of compassion comes screaming into focus.
What is compassion?
Some believe that compassion is the same as acceptance. And if we’re compassionate we’ll endorse a lifestyle or belief that is in direct conflict with Christ’s teaching. They believe we’ll end up abandoning our values and falling away from God. Here in lies the problem.
Being compassionate means having the ability to relate to whoever you meet, no matter what they believe. It means standing on the foundations of your beliefs and at the same time, meeting people wherever they are in life.
After a heated election, where moral issues were at the forefront of the vote, it’s vital that Christians refocus on the importance and effectiveness of compassion.
When we lack compassion, we turn off and turn away the very people we’re trying to reach with Christ’s message. We confirm stereotypes of close-mindedness and legalism. Non-Christians don’t see anything that is particularly attractive in a relationship with Christ, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. The one truth they discover is they don’t want anything to do with a faith or belief that can’t relate to them or this world.
Sometimes, we as Christians try to force feed our faith to people. We don’t take the time to get to know them. We become so wrapped up in reading our “tracts” or delivering the Gospel perfectly, we miss the mark completely. Other times we fail to see each other as brothers and sisters and instead label everyone Christian or non-Christian. We create huge “lists” of things we should do and things we shouldn’t do and measure people by how well they follow the “lists.” Yet, the one thing missing in all of these scenarios is simple…Christ centered compassion.
In Colossians 4:5, Paul writes, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
Paul said it perfectly; we have to make the most out of every opportunity. We have to lead with compassion, being the first to listen and the last to speak. We have to build strong relationships that showcase Christ’s love, understanding and forgiveness. It’s incredibly important to invest in the lives of others and stay clear of overbearing, condescending judgments. We can’t effectively bring people to Christ if we don’t have a deep awareness of who they are or where they’ve been.
And let’s not overlook the fact that within these relationships we build, we have an incredible witnessing tool. The life we live should be a reflection of our life in Christ. Some of the most powerful statements we can make come during times when we say nothing at all. Stepping up when everyone else gives way, taking criticism, going against the grain, all of it can speak volumes about who we are with Christ. Slowly, people begin to see that we have something that is attractive. Combine our lives with a deeper understanding of compassion and the payoff is tremendous.
When we are compassionate, hardened hearts soften. Walls of apprehension and anger come tumbling down. Christ is brought to people in a way He was intended to be, not with “fire and brimstone,” but with caring, loving effectiveness.
It’s important to understand that I’m not proposing we water down Christ’s teaching or biblical truth. There are beliefs that remain at our foundation and we cannot afford to waiver. The goal should be to find the balance. Somewhere in the middle we find the ability to relate to people, to meet people where they are and at the same time share God’s phenomenal plan.
The unshakable truth is that our God is a God of compassion. “But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” Psalm 86:15
Christ was compassionate. “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd…” Mark 6:34
The word “compassion” alone is written 88 times in the Bible (NIV). Given the current health of our world it’s time we extend that same compassion to everyone.