When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.(Matthew 9:36 ESV)
Consider compassion and a little Albanian nun often comes to mind. A woman who was greatly used by God yet did not consider herself to be anything other than Christ’s servant.
Maybe you cringe as a parent at the thought of your child taking vows of chastity and poverty in order to serve the poorest of the poor. But I’m sure you want your kids to exhibit at least some compassion.
I found an excellent description of compassion written by R.C. Sproul Jr and will simply quote what he wrote:
Compassion, rightly understood, means entering into the passion, or suffering, of others. It means setting aside our own concerns, our own fears, our own needs, and not just supplying but feeling the needs of those around us. This, ironically, happens not when we have all that we need. It happens instead when we come to understand that we have nothing and that we need nothing. Compassion flows not out of the wellsatisfied but from those who have not. There is, in turn, only one way to do this — to die to self. When my aspirations, my hopes and dreams, my wants are crucified, I enter into liberty. I am free to take up the concerns of others. A dead man has no need to protect his comfort. He has no need to protect his wealth. He has no need at all to protect his reputation. (With Passion, Tabletalk Magazine)
Such a huge challenge – to die to self and take up the concerns of others as my own. Perhaps children can teach us something of how to do this as they have little of their own but only what is provided for them. They are less about status and more about what is happening right here, right now.
But children have to learn empathy. Selfishness is natural to our sinful nature and overwhelms compassion. Every human has to consciously leave aside their own concerns in order to care for another. This is what we ask God to do, help our kids (and us) to die to ourselves so that we may serve others.
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Image of boy comforting friend: iStockphoto