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Across the Pastor’s Desk: Compassion comes in many forms

Across the Pastor’s Desk by Don Rose

“As Jesus went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.” Mark 6:34

Don Rose

Jesus had invited his disciples to accompany him to a deserted place that they might have time for food and fellowship to regain their energy for the mission at hand. However, when Jesus and his followers arrived, he discovered that instead of a deserted place, it was now a place filled with a crowd of people in need. Jesus might have responded to the situation in any number of ways as human beings might do, but the gospel writer tells us that he saw the people and had compassion for them as they were in need. Jesus chose to set aside quiet time with his closest followers to help others. This act of compassion becomes a model for Jesus’ followers in the world.

What does this compassion look like in concrete terms in the world? To have compassion is to see the world with the eyes of Christ. One is able to see others as valued persons and worthy of care and consideration. One recognizes that one is not the center of the universe and there are others in the world that are as important to God as oneself. Compassion begins when people are able to see beyond themselves and become aware of the suffering of others.

At the same time, it must be noted that seeing is but the beginning of compassion. Compassion is not some generic sense of feeling sorry for others and being thankful that one is not in their shoes. Christian compassion becomes an investment of oneself for the sake of others just as Jesus gave himself for the world’s redemption. Jesus saw that the people were in need and he did something about it. Their first need was to be taught about the good news of the dominion of God, to hear the call to repentance and the promise of restoration and new life as children of God. As the passage in Mark will unfold, Jesus will also satisfy hunger and bring healing into peoples’ lives. Jesus not only saw the people in their suffering but acted to alleviate it.

God’s children today are called to a similar response. Not only will Christ’s followers see need outside of themselves, but by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in them, they will act to bring wholeness, peace and good news to all who are in need. In these days may God’s children see as Jesus saw and be compassionate as Jesus was compassionate for the sake of others.

Don Rose is a pastor at Mansfield and United Lutheran churches.