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Culture

The Lost Art Of Compassion

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January 14th, 2010

I was reading through a set of emails not too long ago when I came across one that really disheartened me. I started to read through this email the message was loud and clear, our body of believers is not doing what it should be doing. My friend used an image that startled me. A man engulfed in flames was spinning in circles. He was screaming for help and no one was willing to reach out to him because of the fear of being burned. The author described himself in this image. He felt like he was spinning in circles and on fire with no help in sight. The fire represented all the pain that he was going through. He felt so distant from everyone around him, distraught that no one was willing to be with him in his sorrow. Here is this wonderful man who has been spiritually beaten, bruised, and attacked with no one willing to sit with him in his mourning.

What has happened? How did we get to this point? Where has our compassion gone for the hurting soul? 

I have heard of many other people with similar experiences. People all throughout the world have walked into the church and been immediately turned away because no one was willing to seek after them. No one was willing to join them in their hurt. The wounded set foot in the church and are immediately turned off because of the self-centered attitude that is portrayed. How have we gotten to this point? What happened to the urgency of showing compassion to those who are hurting?

 

What about teenagers? How do they fit into this idea of “The Lost Art of Compassion?” In Chap Clark’s book Hurt he writes this, “In tunneling beneath the observable adult landscape and creating the world beneath, the primary preoccupation of mid-adolescents is to find a place of relational safety.” Teenagers are seeking after a place of “relational safety.” They want to be able to feel compassion, love, acceptance, and concern. They are looking for a compassionate environment. We are raising a generation of teenagers who experience horrible pain. They live in a world that tells them they are worthless.  Most have never experienced an environment that encourages them to show compassion and love for on another. The church is creating a similar type of environment where hurt and blame is the main focus. Shouldn’t we be creating the opposite?

What about adults, aren’t we all looking for a deep connection that affects our spiritual lives? When I was in college, I can remember developing relationships with people who struck the deep part of my soul. Those relationships were centered on Jesus Christ and we constantly showed each other compassion. We were there for each other through the good times and the bad, the highs and lows, the mountain tops and the canyons. We created a real community. I can remember that those were the most spiritually satisfying times of my life because I had a realistic community backing and supporting me. They were showing me the compassion of Christ through relationships.

In Acts 2:42 a fundamental quality of the Christian faith is documented, community. One benefit of a Christ-centered community is compassion for one another. As a body of believers, do we really create an environment that generates care instead of loneliness?  Are we successfully leading the way in creating a community in our local church to reach those individuals that are hurt and lost in the storms of life?

I remember one of the most painful times in my life was when I found out that my parents were separating. At that time, I thought I had a good community that would rally around me. Yet I was wrong. Time and time again I found myself sitting on my feelings of loneliness, sulking by myself. I made an effort on several different occasions to cry out to them, but all I got in response was a cold shoulder. This is the type of opinion we are creating to those who are hurting and have sought after a community of love. We are not extending the right message to people. We are putting forward an idea of abandonment and isolation when we should be showing the idea of community and compassion.

I would like to issue a challenge. I would like to dare you to take the first step and create a community that seeks after those who are in pain. It starts with one person willing to recognize that there are many people who need to be sought after and are longing for that deeper connection.

Every one of us is seeking after that deep connection with a body of believers. So why don’t you take the first step and reach out to someone?

 

I would like to offer up a few ideas of how to begin to go about establishing a community based on compassion.

Take five minutes. Take five minutes out of your day to make someone feel like they are the center of your world for those few minutes. There are a variety of ways doing this. It can be a phone call, a written word, an email, or talking face to face with someone. When someone takes the time to actually contact you with no hidden agenda but to just genuinely see how you are, it’s amazing what effect that has one someone. Put yourself in their shoes for a minute.  Imagine that you are hurting because something significant happened in your life and you just want someone to ask how you are doing when someone stops you in the hallway and asks you how you are doing. You can see it in their eyes that they are really concerned. How much of an impact would something like that have on someone? You just affected someone by taking five minutes out of your day to show them compassion. The Bible shows Christ himself doing this on many different occasions. He would take time out of his schedule and seek after people. He would make them the center of his world for those moments. Luke 13:10-13 refers to Christ healing a random woman who was suffering in the synagogues where Jesus was teaching. His main purpose was to teach, but he saw someone suffering and took the time to show her the compassion and love that she so desperately needed.

Be deliberate. We need to purposefully seek after people. This may require us to be uncomfortable for a few moments but when someone intentionally comes up to me and shows me their attention I feel special. Throughout all of Christ’s journeys he was extremely focused on presenting the love of God everywhere he went. We need to deliberately do the same thing. This is where we have gone away from what we should be doing. We have lost our focus. I want to challenge you to deliberately looking for the person who may be hurting and seek after them with the compassion of God. Go over to the person who may be sitting by themselves and wants to feel a connection to someone. Talk with that person who may be attention-starved. Focus your life around that person who may just need someone to listen to them for a few moments, but deliberately do it.

Be vulnerable. Many find this the most difficult part of compassion. It requires us to show someone who we really are. It is not easy by any means. I would encourage you to reveal yourself to someone slowly. There is no need to completely show someone who you are all at once, try it in stages. I can remember when I first started in Youth Ministry. I was leading a small group of high school guys. It required me to be vulnerable in front of these guys, which was not easy. It took me a while to learn how to do it, but what ended up happening is that it developed a deep relationship between myself and those guys. I still talk with many of those guys to this day. Christ was the same way. He was not shy about what he was going through. He presented himself as he was to people. He connected with them on a real level. He was willing to put himself out there so that people could understand the love of God in a new and deep way, for which we all are longing.

Again, I want to challenge you to take that first step and seek after those who are hurting. There are so many people in this world that have been hurt by us not showing the compassion of Christ. Who in your life could you seek?

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.

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