“In other words, compassion in ministry is not so much the characteristic of a certain type of personality, as the characteristic of the person with a certain set of priorities.” D. A Carson in Jesus’ Confrontation with the World.
This is true, not because a scholar said it, but because it summarizes the Bible truth on the subject (1 Pet 3:8, 1 Jn 3:17).
A number of conclusions/observations follow:
First, if I am not compassionate, it is not because I was born that way or “just the way I am.” It is because I choose to not have the proper priorities in my thinking about others.
Next, Jesus’ compassion on the woman at the well illustrates. He was hungry, tired. He saw her need and was so energized by helping her that the Twelve were amazed and he said, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” The apostles learned a compassionate heart in three to five years. Think on that the next time a class teacher says they were slow to understand. I have walked with Jesus about 50 years and find myself somewhat short of where I need to be in this regard. How about you?
We do not need a personality transplant. We need to re-set our priorities. A lot less than 5% of the NewTestament concerns the worship and work of the church. Yet we spend most of our time and energy as Christians there! Jesus’ compassion flowed when among the people: sinners, workers, crowds, the infirm. WE NEED to get out of the building.
Peter summarized Jesus’ life, “He went about doing good.”
Certainly, Sunday worship must be right, by the pattern. But Christianity is the life everyday and must be marked by doing good for those who do not deserve it just as we did not deserve God’s goodness.
Our priorities fuel our compassion…or lack thereof. When much of our energy, time, and conversation concerns house, health, career, the kids’ ball schedule, and social engagements, even if we are engrossed with teaching a wowser of a Bible class in order to impress folks with our ability, compassion is a sometime thing. When our priority is people: to show kindness, to help, to listen, to reprove the works of darkness, to shine a light to guide; when we commit each day to greet each person with the love of God which was shed in our hearts, then compassion flows naturally as it did from our Lord and example.
What is your priority?
Whose end is perdition, whose god is the belly, and [whose] glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things. (Phil 3:19)
Put on therefore, as God's elect, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering; (Col 3:12)