Note:  I was recently invited to serve as the guest speaker at my home church's morning worship services. Naturally, the topic needed to be Biblically -based and congregationally relevant. Because of my conviction that compassion is so extremely important to healthy relationships, I decided to present a lesson featuring Jesus as the Master Model for compassion. Hopefully, the following material will be helpful to you as you examine your current level of compassion and as you explore ways to improve the role of compassion in all of your relationships. -- Dr. Bill Baker (07/26/2011) 


                                                             "Filled with compassion . . . "                                                                             

We don’t know who he was; we don’t even know his name.  Yet we do know what he needed.  The man was a victim of the most dreaded disease in the ancient world—leprosy! 
While the full extent of his leprosy is uncertain, it is known that his body was covered by the loathsome disease.  Like most lepers, this man was literally dying a living death.  He could only watch and suffer as increasing amounts of his flesh rotted and died before his very eyes. No doubt he had already lost several fingers and toes. No doubt his body reeked with the repulsive stench of decaying flesh. In the midst of it all, very little could be done for his constant, agonizing pain.
Added to the physical pain was the emotional pain of social rejection. Categorized as an “unclean person” and forced to live in isolation, the leper was indeed a social outcast. The deep, despairing loneliness must have felt overwhelming at times.
The leper’s physical and emotional pain was worsened by one tragic fact:  his illness was incurable.    Every new day brought a hopeless dawn. Every sunset was stained with the blood of his pain. For this leper there was no way out; there was no hope.

Then, one day a small glimmer of hope entered this leper’s heart.  He began hearing stories about a teacher who possessed great powers of healing.  As he listened to these stories told about people who had been helped by this healer, the small ray of hope grew in his heart until it became, as it were, a great floodlight that illuminated and motivated his soul. Finally, he knew what he had to do:  somehow, he must find this man. 
We don’t know how the leper found the healer, but somehow he placed himself near the path the healer was to take.  The leper must not presume to get too close, yet close enough to get the healer’s attention. The moment came.  The leper fell to his knees before the healer and begged, “Lord, if you are willing you can make me clean.”

The leper waited.  The onlookers held their breath. What happened next amazed both the onlookers and the leper himself.  Filled with compassion, the healer stretched out his hand and touched the leper.  Then came from the lips of the healer the words the leper had longed to hear: “I am willing; be clean.” The cure was instant – the cleansing complete.  The leper was healed.

It’s a simple story, told in a few verses of Scripture in Mark 1 and Luke 5.  Yet it’s a profound story, powerful enough to stimulate our highest thoughts and stir our deepest emotions.  The story both provokes a question and provides the answer. The question:  How could Jesus touch the untouchable?  The answer: “filled with compassion.”  Jesus was a man of compassion; he felt deep, genuine concern for people in pain. That compassion compelled him to action.
Jesus is still active today in the lives of people who hurt.  Because of his compassion he cares about them, and he wants to help.  The good news is: he does help—as he works through us.  As his disciples, we are his hands; he touches people as we touch people.  For us to be effective “touchers of people” we must be moved and motivated by the same love Jesus felt for people--that love which expressed itself through appropriate action. Like him, we must be “compelled by compassion.” However, before compassion can be compelling within our lives, it must first be growing within our hearts. That truth raises the question, “How do we grow compassion within our hearts?”
Our Philosophy of Relationships:  The Three Rules
The growth of compassion is related to our personal history in life:
            what we’ve been taught about compassion,
            what we’ve observed about compassion,
            what we’ve experienced about compassion.

Essentially, a heart of compassion grows out of one’s basic philosophy of human relationships.  Jesus discussed that truth in a parable recorded for us in Luke 10. According to Jesus’ story, a man who was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho was attacked by thieves, beaten, and left for dead. A Jewish priest soon came by and saw the man, but he passed by on the other side of the road. A little later a Jewish Levite also came along the same road, but, like the priest, he also passed by and refused to render assistance. Finally, a Samaritan man came along and helped the victim who was hurt. After bandaging the man, the Samaritan took him to a nearby Inn and even gave the innkeeper some money to pay for the man’s expenses. After telling the story, Jesus asked the question, “Who proved to be neighbor to this man?”
That question pulls at our heartstrings and begs for an answer. Why did these men act the way they did? What motivated their responses? Could the answer involve the issue of compassion? Basically, the robbers had no compassion; the priest and Levite had no compassion.  In contrast, the Samaritan responded.  Compelled by compassion, he reached out his hand and touched the beaten man. He provided the help needed; the man’s life was saved. 
Many lessons can be learned from Jesus’ story.  Among these lessons we gain insight into basic human relationships, specifically into three rules of human interaction.*
The robbers operated by the Iron Rule,
                                 the law of the jungle, the survival of the fittest, might makes right.
          Their philosophy was “What’s yours is mine and I’ll take it if I can.”
          Their motto was “Every man for himself at the expense of others.”
The priest and Levite operated by the Silver Rule.
          Their philosophy was “What’s mine is mine and I’ll keep it if I can.” 
          Their motto was “Every man for himself at the neglect of others.”
The Samaritan operated by the Golden Rule.
          His philosophy was “What’s mine is yours if you need it.”
          His motto was “Every man for others at his own expense.”
The Iron Rule and the Silver Rule may contain passion--but not compassion. Only the Golden Rule has the inherent power sufficient to generate the kind of compassion which compels us to appropriate action. 
Jesus is the Master Model for that kind of compassion. He preached and practiced the Golden Rule.  “What’s mine is yours if you need it.”  Daily he gave his life for others—ultimately at the expense of his own life. Because of his philosophy of relationships Jesus lived a lifestyle of compelling compassion. His compassion was not a matter of convenience but of conviction, not of preference but of principle.
Because of his genuine compassion for people Jesus was willing and able to touch people.
           He touched the skin of the leper.
           He touched the eyes of the blind.
           He touched the heart of the prostitute.
           He touched the lives of the unlovely.
Literally, Jesus touched the untouchables!
Somehow he found those individuals who were judged by the world’s standards to be unlovable and untouchable, those who were considered as worthless and useless. Through his compassionate touch he enabled them to see their worth and to celebrate their usefulness.
The power of Jesus’ touch is well illustrated in a story told by Myra Brooks Welch.*

          Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer
                 Thought it scarcely worth his while
          To waste much time on the old violin,
                 But held it up with a smile.
          “What am I bidden, good folks?” he cried;
                 “Who will start bidding for me?
          A dollar, a dollar”—then, “Two!”, “Only two?
                 Two dollars, and who’ll make it three?
          Three dollars once; three dollars, twice;
               Going for three”-- But no,
          From the room, far back, a gray-haired man
                Came forward and picked up the bow;
          Then, wiping the dust from the old violin,
                And, tightening the loosened strings,
          He played a melody pure and sweet
                As a caroling angel sings.
          The music ceased and the auctioneer
                In a voice that was quiet and low
          Said, “Now what am I bid for the old violin?”
                As he held it up with the bow.
          “A thousand dollars, and who’ll make it two?
                Two thousand, and who’ll make it three?
          Three thousand once, three thousand twice,
                And going, and gone!” said he.
          The people cheered, but some of them cried
                “We do not understand
          What changed its worth?”—Quick came the reply,
                “The touch of the master’s hand.”
          And many a man with life out of tune
                And battered and scarred with sin
          Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd
                Much like the old violin.
          A “mess of pottage,” a glass of wine,
                A game, and he travels on;
          He’s going once and going twice,
                And going and almost gone,
          But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd
                Never can quite understand
          The worth of a soul and the change that’s wrought
                By the touch of the Master’s hand.”
The Church’s Compassion:  Compelled to Action!
Our world today is powered by too much passion and too little compassion. Our world today suffers with too much hurt but supplies too little help.  As Jesus’ church, we must offer more. We must become the company of the compassionate. Compelled by compassion, we must become a therapeutic community, a haven for hurting hearts. Our work must be the ministry of lifting fallen lives. Competitively, the world strives to pull down those who are standing; compassionately, we must strive to lift up those who have fallen. 
We lift through listening, by hearing people as they share their stories of pain.
We lift through leading, by providing helpful guidance when  needed.
We lift through laboring, by bearing one another’s burdens.
Jesus’ church family has demonstrated many times the compassion which characterized the Lord himself.  Compelled by compassion, the church has provided physical and spiritual assistance to countless people both in local communities and throughout the world.  Yet, regardless of how much we have already done, we must do more, for there is still so much more that needs to be done.
Years ago the four-year-old daughter of a minister friend came to her mother and requested a Band-Aid.  Her mother offered her the Band-Aid and asked, “Here it is—where do you want me to put it?”  The girl replied, “Oh, Mommy, just put it anywhere.  I hurt all over.”
Our world is hurting all over.  As God’s people we have the Band-Aids which provide personal care and powerful comfort. We must be compelled by compassion to share God’s “Band-Aids” freely to all those in pain. As we share, let’s do so with perspective and power from God’s Word.
 Paul encourages us:
          “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ Jesus has forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:32)
          “Do good to all men, especially to those of the household of faith.”  (Gal. 6:10)
In II Cor. 1:3-4 Paul tells us to “comfort those in any trouble” even as God has comforted us. The question is “how”—how can we comfort people in trouble? Paul gives us the answer in verse 3 as he describes God as the “God of all comfort.” But how can God comfort us? Paul says that God is the “Father of compassion.” Because God is the “Father of compassion” he can become the “God of all comfort.”
Clearly, according to Paul, comfort is closely connected to compassion. Without compassion we cannot comfort people in trouble. With compassion we cannot keep from comforting people in trouble. A compassionate heart compels us toward comforting actions. 
Further, Jesus himself encourages us:
          “Blessed are the compassionate, for they shall obtain compassion.”  (Mt. 5:7)
          “So in everything, do to others what you would have them to do to you…”  (Mt. 7:12)
          “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)

When any church is filled with compassion, that church is compelled to  action.
And when that church is compelled to action, people’s lives are touched—and changed forever!
Losing our Compassion

Yet. . . after being touched by the Great Physician,
           after being saved by the suffering Savior,
           after being given grace by a compassionate heavenly Father,
                      we stand in danger of losing our compassion!
We stand in danger because our world’s culture protects the toughness of competition
          while it protests the tenderness of compassion.
So we are told:   “Be tough—be macho!” “Do not feel—do not show mercy!”
We stand in danger because our world’s culture bombards us daily with the prevalence of
            pain while it desensitizes us to the power of that pain.
A missionary was being visited by a friend from the States.  The friend noticed the widespread poverty and the many homeless people living on the streets. He asked the missionary, “Doesn’t this bother you?”  The missionary shrugged and responded, “Yes, at first, but in time you get used to it.”
A journalist was interviewing a surgeon who was working as a medical missionary.  He asked the physician, “Do you ever worry about losing your skill?” The doctor replied, “Not really, but I do worry a great deal about losing my compassion.”
When we as a church start losing our compassion, we place ourselves at great risk, for we are tempted to welcome into our fellowship only those who are already whole. To make matters worse, we are tempted to be skeptical, standoffish, and even rejecting toward those who need help because they are not yet whole. As a result, we do more “sifting” than “lifting,” and we refuse to love the unlovables and to touch the untouchables. The loss of compassion leads us to become more like a “country club” and less like the “healing hospital” that the church was commissioned to be.
Practicing compassion is very different from the preaching of compassion. Too often we simply fail to practice what we preach. Sometimes our children’s behavior reflects our faults and reminds us of our failures.
For example, one five-year-old boy was standing in line with his Kindergarten class, waiting to perform at the graduation program of the Christian school he attended. Suddenly he started laughing at and ridiculing the girl behind him in line. Their teacher saw the girl’s tears, intervened, and reprimanded the boy for his cruelty. His explanation was rather revealing:  “But she deserved it! She forgot our memory verse—‘Be ye kind one to another.’”
That example may tickle our humor, but hopefully it will touch our heart.
If so, then we ask the question:
         Like the girl, have we forgotten our memory verse?
         Like the boy, have we forgotten to practice the memory verse?
 A minister friend described to me a visit he once made to a Christian woman in a psychiatric hospital.  During the visit he asked her what she dreaded most about being discharged from the hospital. She thought for a moment, then replied, “What I dread most is returning to church and having to face the brethren.”
 Again we ask: “As a church, have we forgotten our memory verse?”
 A concerned father and mother were eagerly and anxiously awaiting the return of their son who had been fighting in the war.  While waiting, they received a phone call from their son.  He had been discharged and was in San Diego. He had a favor to ask them. “I have a friend with me, a buddy, who fought with me in the war.  He was wounded and has no place to go.  I thought he might live with us for a while.” His parents seemed reluctant. He continued, “Actually, my friend was badly hurt; in fact, he lost an arm, a leg, and one eye.  He really needs our help.”  As he listened to their tone, he knew that while he their son would be welcomed home, his handicapped friend would not.  The conversation ended; the parents resumed their wait.  About two hours later the parents received another phone call, this one from the San Diego Police Department, requesting that they come as soon as possible to identify the body of their son.  Apparently, he had jumped to his death from his hotel window.  The couple hurried to San Diego, filled with grief and confusion. “How could he do this?  Why did he take his own life?” Their questions were at least partially answered when they entered the morgue and saw, lying on the table, the body of their son—with one arm, one leg, and one eye.
Again we ask, “As Christians, have we forgotten our memory verse?”

Yes, we stand in danger of losing our compassion.
         However, we must not lose what we need to keep.
        We must not forget our memory verse!  
               If this is not a place where tears are understood,
                       Where do I go to cry?
               If this is not a place where my spirit can take wing,
                       Where do I go to fly?
               If this is not a place where my questions can be asked,
                       Where do I go to seek?
               If this is not a place where my feelings can be heard,
                      Where do I go to speak?
               If this is not a place where you’ll accept me as I am,
                     Where can I go to be me?
               If this is not a place where I can try and learn and grow,
                     Where can I be . . . just me?

                                                  (Author Unknown)
How will we respond?

Our world is in pain.
           Hearts are hurting.
           Lives need healing.
The question is:  “How are we responding?”
          Are we hearing—or hiding?
          Are we helping—or hesitating?
Response means action, but action compelled by what motive?
          If we are compelled by human passion,
                we will merely use people and love things.
          If, however, we are compelled by divine compassion,
                we will instead love people and use things.
Response means action, but action based on what philosophy?
          If we follow Jesus, the Master Model of Compassion, the philosophy is clear.
                 Our response will be based on conviction rather than convenience.
                 Our response will be driven by principle rather than preference.
 It was true about Jesus:
          Before the world cared about how much he knew,
                the world had to know how much he cared.
It is true about the church:
          Before the world will care about how much we know,
                the world must know how much we care.
As Jesus’ disciples, we have already experienced the Master’s touch.
          Indeed, our hearts and our lives have been touched and transformed.
          Indebted, we must see our responsibility and we must seize every opportunity.
As Jesus’ disciples, let us all, individually and collectively, embrace the ministry of compelling compassion.
Compelled by compassion,
         We will open our eyes and see the pain.
         We will open our ears and hear the hurt.
Compelled by compassion,
         We will open our hearts – and love the unlovable.
         We will reach out our hands – and touch the untouchable.
Compelled by compassion, we will serve people, and as we serve them,
         They will know that the love they feel from us
                is his love being expressed to them.
         They will know that the grace they receive from us
                is his grace being extended to them.
Compelled by compassion, we will touch people when they need to be touched.
          When we do, may they somehow comprehend the truth
                   that the touch they receive is really not our touch, but rather it is.
. .
                     “The Touch of the Master’s Hand”
           And many a man with life out of tune
                And battered and scarred with sin
           Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd
                Much like the old violin.
           A “mess of pottage,” a glass of wine,
                A game, and he travels on;
           He’s going once and going twice,
                And going and almost gone,
           But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd
                Never can quite understand
           The worth of a soul and the change that’s wrought
                 By the touch of the Master’s hand.”
Mutual compassion is a key ingredient in any healthy human relationship. Additionally, compassion promotes positive mental health and emotional well-being. I wish you the very best as you examine your current level of compassion and as you strive to grow toward a lifestyle of “Compelled by Compassion.”
Best wishes in all of your relationship journeys!

*Author’s Note: Some of the material in this section about the three rules may have been adapted from sources no longer identifiable by the author. I extend my thanks to anyone who has contributed to this material and my apologies to those who deserve credit. – BJB (July, 2011) 

*Welch, Myra Brooks. “The Touch of the Master’s Hand.”
Resources:  If you are interested in additional materials about the development of spirituality, check out the Spiritual Growth category contained in the Resources section of this website, or just click here        

(The material contained in this article was presented by the author in a lesson he shared with his home church on July 24, 2011 when he was invited to serve as a guest speaker. If you would like to listen to his presentation, click the Play button below.)



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