Is anyone else feeling overwhelmed by current events? There is so much turmoil, pain and suffering happening around the world today and after a very bitter political election in the U.S., the marches, protests and debates are still ongoing. The thing that I have been wrestling with as a Christian is how I should respond to all of this pain.
You see, I’m an “empathy” person. The two StrengthsFinder tests that I took a few years ago proved this. Empathy – You can sense the emotions of those around you. You can feel what they are feeling as though their feelings are your own. Intuitively, you are able to see the world through their eyes and share their perspective.
The problem is that empathy isn’t always enough. That feeling or sentiment doesn’t always lead to action. For example, if someone commits an offense against me, I may be able to put myself in their shoes and understand why they did it, but that doesn’t mean that I feel led to forgive them or reconcile with them. Sometimes, my pride (an emotional state that’s strangely not found on StrengthsFinder) gets the best of me and keeps me from taking action.
What I really want is to be moved with compassion. The word compassion means “to suffer together and is the active desire to alleviate another’s suffering.  It is defined as the response to the suffering of others that motivates a desire to HELP. It isn’t just an emotional feeling but a motivated response or action.
Even though Strengths Finder doesn’t list compassion as one of its core strengths, the Bible consistently lists it as a core strength and character trait of God. One of my favorite Bible passages is Psalm 103. It’s a beautiful verse that speaks to the character and identity of God the Father. When I am struggling to remember who I am, this verse reminds me that I am I read this verse consistently when I was struggling with my identity as a Christian. It reminded me of God’s character and my identity in Christ. This passage also uses the word compassion four times to define the character and heart of the Father.
verse 4: who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
verse 8: the Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
verse 13: As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
It also says this about his character:
verse 6: The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.
So when I think about the character of the Father, I am reminded of his compassionate response to the suffering and injustice of the world, he didn’t build a wall or a door but tore the veil to his kingdom by sending his son to die on a cross. Essentially, his death took down the curtain that separated God from man, the good news was no longer just for the Jews but for all men.
Because Jesus found his identity in his Heavenly Father, he showed the same compassion for others when he was presented with their suffering and pain. He reached out and helped the woman with the issue of blood [Mark 5: 25 -32], revived a dead girl [Mark 5:35-42], and healed the man with leprosy [Mark 1:40-45] and the paralyzed man [Mark 2: 1-12]. Plus there are countless times in the Bible when his compassion for the lost, diseased, outsiders in his generation got him in trouble with the religious rulers.
So what does compassion look like in today’s world?
It looks like Bono and the ONE campaign, which was highlighted in this article by Fortune Magazine. The magazine tells the story of Bono’s plight to get lawmakers to approve AIDS funding in the 1990s. Some of the lawmakers cited religious reasons for not approving AIDS funding. Bono used the Bible to teach them compassion.
Writer Ellen McGirt says, “he quoted Matthew 25, which talks about suffering. ‘There was nothing about judgment there,’ says Bono. ‘How could addressing this disease not be at the center of Christ’s mission? That’s where we ended up.’ Helms welled up, offered a blessing, and got to work. Not only did he change his mind on AIDS funding, but he lobbied the White House himself.” The funding was approved as a result.
It looks like you and me standing up against injustice. We may have different causes that tug at our heart but the truth is still the same, “How could addressing _________ not be at the center of Christ’s mission?”
Right now, the causes that I feel passionate about are the treatment of immigrants and those who are denied equal rights based on race and gender. While empathy for these groups come a little easier for me as a black, immigrant woman, I don’t want to just have empathy for those who are like me, I want to be moved with compassion for the plight of all who are oppressed. I don’t want to look away anymore. I’ve seen too much.
“Now that I’ve seen, I am responsible. Faith without deeds is dead.” – Brooke Fraser
I pray that as Christians we will be filled with compassion for those around us. I pray that we will respond to the suffering of others with prayer and action. I pray that we would get our motivation from Christ and not just religious leaders and those in authority. I pray that when we are confused, we will turn off the television, social media channels and open our bibles to read the word of God. I pray that we will always fight for those Jesus came to save:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” [Luke 4:18-19]
I pray that it starts with me. I pray that it starts with you. I pray that this is the year of the Lord’s favor in your life and in the world around us.
Here are some organizations and resources to get us started: *
Resources and Articles
*Please note that most of the organizations listed above are faith-based organizations. Please feel free to add other organizations or resources in the comment section below.