Compassion – Begins with Listening

May I become at all times, both now and forever
A protector for those without protection
A guide for those who have lost their way
A ship for those with oceans to cross
A bridge for those with rivers to cross
A sanctuary for those in danger
A lamp for those without light
A place of refuge for those who lack shelter
And a servant to all in need.

Compassion Starts With Looking and Listening

How do we get compassion for the lost, suffering, and oppressed? How can we grow in the kind of compassion that moves the heart of God? We look to Jesus to see how He responded through compassion. Consider this story from His life:

And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity (compassion), he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter (Mark 1:40-45).

In this familiar story, we see a beautiful model for how our compassion for others should lead us. The man with leprosy came to Jesus and spoke to Him, and at first all Jesus did was listen. He was present and aware of this man’s suffering and humility. Though He may have been eager to get on with His own agenda for the day, He was willing to stop and make Himself aware of the suffering before Him. What does it mean for us to listen in this way?

On one level, “listening compassion” starts wherever we live and with whomever we come across. Whether in our home, in the classroom, or at work, we can listen to those who express their pain behind their busyness or a forced smile. Only through listening in this way can our compassion be awakened. If we do not have a heart for the lost and the poor, it means we are not looking and listening intently enough.

How can Christians become better listeners and really hear what is going on in the world? It all begins with following the model of Jesus to see and listen to those in need around us and then extending that compassion to those who live far away.

The world today is filled with suffering. Poverty, disease, war, and injustice leave millions of people without access to the gospel. Today there are more than thirty wars going on across the globe, and there are millions of people who live with very little possibility of even meeting a Christian because there are not many around them. Because we are bombarded with data and statistics every day, our minds may tend to grow numb at reading such staggering figures. But remember that each person represented in these numbers is an individual with hopes, cares, and wishes—just like you and me.

This is an excerpt from Dangerous Faith by Joel Vestal, pp. 112-114. Dangerous Faith is a great read for those interested in Worship, Prayer, Simplicity, Compassion, or Justice. More excerpts about Compassion will be posted soon. -Rachel


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