What is compassion? What does the face of compassion look like? I used to think I knew and only within the last few years did I begin to realize I had no concept of the word. Like many in this nation, I think I believed myself to be compassionate. I felt the twinge of nagging sorrow for those affected in other nations by calamity, natural disasters, wars, or pestilence. I occassionally tossed in my dollars to support the efforts of the missionary works or the relief efforts to those far off locations as I felt responsible to do something. I later learned these offerings were based in guilt. Guilt for my willful turning from the sufferings of others. These "offerings" were the purchase price to alleviate the naggings of my conscience, to quiet the small quiet voice of the Spirit within me.
But this notion of compassion will not suffice when one begins to earnestly seek God's face for a compassionate heart, for the ability to love others above themselves. This has been the necessary prayer for myself because I've come to realize that God has called each of us to serve. Serve Him and serve each other. To do this effectively we must love and to love we must relate - compassionately. Not everyone around you is experiencing mountain-top living all of the time and when they are in their valleys, compassion is required to reach into their lives, to encourage and partner with them in prayer. To pray for compassion is to pray for God to lay your heart open to the wounds and hurts of others, to feel their suffering and pain. This is true of the neighbor down the street who has lost a loved one, it is true of the addict itching for the needle, it is true of the orphan in the far off land. Compassion does not have limitations, parameters, or geographic boundaries.
We tend to think of the Old Testament as being filled with God's judgement but there are countless scriptures that speak of God's compassion. In doing a quick word study the Hebrew word for God's compassion towards us means to love deeply and to have tender affection towards. In the New Testament we read on several occassions where Jesus was moved with compassion. This Greek word means to be moved to one's very core being, to be moved to one's bowels, their very depth of being. This is God's/Jesus'/The Spirit's compasssion towards us. It moves Him to the depth of His being with tender affection towards us. Compassion moves. It does not permit a stationary reaction. It moves those experiencing it. Moves them to action, to deed, to alter the circumstance. And as Spirit filled believers, this is God's total design and desire for us on this sphere. That we would be moved to change and heal the devestation that hell has unleashed upon men in hatred against God and mankind. We are the ones empowered for this work. We are the ones with the ability to see this done.
But the prayer for compassion is dangerous. It is dangerous to your known way of life and your fleshly/carnal nature. In fact it is deadly. Much of what I have valued has had to die and it is not an easy death. This flesh is continually with us, continually gasping for ressurection in attitudes and intents, in the very way in which we seek to place our needs and desires above others'. When Jesus said "pick up your cross and follow" he was literally saying "stake down your flesh and follow on the path that I have prepared for you to walk even when you can't see where it's going". Compassion can only be fully functional and effective in the heart of one who has done this, who has staked down their flesh, put themselves aside, and is ready to walk in the love that Jesus walked out towards humanity.
Additionally there is an adversary that takes notice of these shifting allegiances. Suddenly strongholds that were present for him to operate through are cast down. Temptations that quickly disabled or incapacitated are scarcely noticed. Increased pressures and desperate measures are required. Compassion is the heart of God within you, "the sleeping giant awakening" so-to-speak. Giants draw attention and make large targets. Strongholds in your heart or your thinking will not be relinquished without conflict. The enemy will fight to retain the footholds in your life, but when we equip ourselves and resist as stated in Ephesians 6 and James 4, he will lose.
When this compassion takes hold of us and we begin to see people through Gods eyes, see souls as God sees them, then this compassion is dangerous to hell itself. This compassion is the motivating force that shakes the very foundations of hell as God's people work to bring the light of the Word and the Love of God into the lives of the lost and dying, whether they are 6,000 or 6 miles away. This compassion will move us to the very depths of our own being, and we will find ourselves in motion. As stated, compassion does not permit a stationary stance but requires reaction in the face of suffering.
I'll close with a quote from Fields of the Fatherless by Tom Davis, a book that I strongly recommend anyone seeking a better understanding of compassion read:
"Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human."
This is exactly what Jesus did when he came to this earth as fully God, fully man, and exactly what he is asking each of us to do as well.