Do you ever get tired of people trying to comfort you when they have no idea how you feel? I do. I know they mean well. It’s them being compassionate, right? But what is compassion?
Most of the time people who try to convince me that they understand what I’m feeling just irritate me. Because half the time they have no concept of what it is to live the life I live, to work my job, to deal with the stress I have to manage. I’m sure they can imagine it, but they can’t really understand it.
Today’s verse is Hebrews 4:15.
This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.
The High Priest mentioned in this verse is Jesus. A tiny bit of history: the Jewish faith system was set up with a High Priest who would go into the Holiest part of the Temple once a year to make an offering to pay for the sins of the nation. It was a really complicated process, and I’m speeding through this. But it was their Day of Atonement, and the High Priest was the only one who was allowed to intercede between God and His People.
When Jesus died for our sins, He became our High Priest, the intercessor between us and God, so that now when we need to speak to God, we don’t have to go through another man. We can pray in Jesus’ name and have free access to God.
What’s different about Jesus as our High Priest is that He understands our weaknesses. Jesus faced every trial and temptation we face. He went through all of the same issues that we go through. He experienced all the pain and the hurt that we have felt. He did it without sin, of course, but he still went through it. So when Jesus says He can understand our issues, He means it. Because He experienced everything we do. He can understand it.
To me, that is true compassion.
Compassion is one of those virtues that I think people get mixed up a lot. Compassion can really only be shared. We say that you can have compassion on someone. I don’t think that’s right. You can have mercy on someone. But you can have compassion with someone. Compassion and mercy aren’t the same. Mercy is giving someone something they don’t deserve. Compassion is sharing in suffering. If you want to have compassion on someone, you have to experience the same problems that they are experiencing.
Compassion International is a great program, but it’s about mercy. If you want to feel compassion for those little children you are supporting, go live in a third world country with no medicine, no food, no water, and no shelter. Then, when you really understand what it’s like to live the way they do, you can have compassion with them.
Real compassion is difficult. Because it requires us to share in the suffering of others. It requires us to live like Jesus did on a level that most American Christians won’t attempt. Because American Christianity is only about being comfortable.
So, am I saying sell everything and go live in an Indian slum? No. Although, if you feel called to do that, you should. I guess what my heart was really saying to me this morning is that I need to be patient in the midst of my struggles and problems because the things I’m going through today will allow me to have real compassion with someone in the future.
It’s happened more times than I can count, that God has used events and experiences in my life to bless someone else with. And that’s not my doing. That’s Him preparing me for something bigger than I am. My struggle is recognizing it when I’m in the midst of it. But I know of Christians who refuse to go on mission’s trips because they will have to eat food that they don’t like or they will have to live out of a backpack with limited cosmetics. Yes, there are medical reasons for some people to not leave the country. That’s one thing. But if you want to go on a mission’s trip and you expect the culture and the missionaries in the field to cater to your comfort level, you need to check your attitude. It’s the same with home missions. If you want to reach out to the people on the street, you’d better be prepared to live the way they do.
God has called us to live compassionate lives like Jesus did. But are we willing to share in the suffering of others? Are we willing to get down and dirty and uncomfortable to achieve that?