Many people, Christian and non-Christian, are familiar with the “Golden Rule”. In the book of Matthew, chapters 5 through 7, Jesus teaches this famous rule during his Sermon on the Mount. While preaching this sermon, His longest message in the Bible, Jesus emphasizes, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12, King James Version). Jesus’ instruction encourages believers to share genuine love and respect with neighbors. He compels believers to reflect on how they would hope to be treated–as divinely created humans who thrive off of compassion.
While today’s world is abundant with marvel and beauty, it is undeniably filled with sin and pain, too. People are dealing with real trials of grief, addiction, mental illness, oppression, and cruelty. Without accessible support from others, it becomes easier to develop feelings of hopelessness and even a hardened heart. Beyond just merely surviving, Christians bloom in environments where they are affirmed and comforted as children of God. During even the toughest circumstances, authentic kindness and love can be motivating and transformative. This reality underscores the significance of compassion, which has numerous definitions.
Greater Good Magazine writes, “Compassion literally means to ‘suffer together’. It is defined as the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering.”
According to Karen Armstrong, the author of 12 Steps to a Compassionate Life,
“Compassion asks us to look into our own hearts, discover what gives us pain, and then refuse, under any circumstances whatsoever, to inflict that pain on anyone else.”
These interpretations of compassion illustrate that it blossoms in community. Christians are called to be compassionate in every space. These spaces encompass your church, work, gym, and home. Here are just a few examples of ways to extend such an essential character trait:
Truly Acknowledge Others
How do you treat the people with whom you cross paths? Do you acknowledge them with respect and attentiveness, regardless of their wealth, race, religion, or any other identifier? Whether you are interacting with a family member or the cashier at your favorite grocery store, acknowledgment can speak tremendous volumes. Being considerate by smiling, asking “How are you?” with genuine interest, and even making eye contact can transform someone’s day. Taking interest in others’ narratives, actively listening, and encouraging them along their journey also matter. Technology and social media are cultural norms in today’s society. Yet, it helps to disconnect from the virtual world for enough time to recognize the beauty and gifts that living, breathing people around us hold.
When was the last time that you said, “Thank you”? Is there a mentor, pastor, coach, family member, or any positive role model in your life that you can thank for supporting you? No matter how random or awkward it may seem, giving thanks to others with a phone call, thank you card, or a small gift can have tremendous meaning. It can affirm someone to know that a seed they helped plant in your life has beared fruit in your heart. On a ‘smaller’ scale and in connection with acknowledging others, saying thank you to service workers is another example of gratitude. To move you into a spirit of thankfulness, it can also be profoundly encouraging to reflect on God’s hand in your life. What has He done for you already? What blessings are already manifesting in your daily life? You can refer to Bible verses, like Psalm 23 and Philippians 4:4-9, 11-13, for instances of heartfelt gratitude for the Lord.
Share the Moment
“Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people.” (Romans 12:14-16, New Living Translation)
Your faith walk is not a solitary journey. It involves discipleship and doing life with others. When someone else is suffering, you may not always know the most consoling advice or Bible verse to share with them. However, acknowledging their struggle and sharing their moment of pain bridges a powerful connection. On the contrary, celebrating others’ blessings and joy, regardless of your circumstances, is a marker of maturity and love unmarked by jealousy.
Remember the Good Samaritan
“Jesus replied with a story: ‘A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.
By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.
Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’
‘Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?’ Jesus asked.
The man replied, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’
Then Jesus said, ‘Yes, now go and do the same.’” (Luke 10:25-37 New Living Translation)
This oft told story is certainly relevant in present times. The priest and the temple assistant both failed to help the Jewish man who was harmed and left “half dead”. While their reasoning for neglecting him is not explicitly mentioned, perhaps they were fearful of tainting their reputations or just plain cruel. What is clear though is that the Samaritan, a man whose position was hated, especially by Jews, embodied true compassion. He upheld a positive example of how Christians and the church should treat others. The Good Samaritan affirmed that if anyone of any societal (including church) standing doesn’t have love, they have nothing. This story is a testament to Paul’s later writings on love and compassion:
“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:9-3, New Living Translation)
“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40, New Living Translation)
Compassion can be grounded in God because God is love. To fully give compassion, Christians should obey Jesus’ two greatest commandments. We should love God with our everything, and we should love others as ourselves. We cannot do the latter without being compassionate and loving who we are in God’s eyes.
As you reflect on being compassionate to others, what are some tangible steps that you can take to first, give God all of your love and secondly, love yourself?