I read an article recently in which the author described how he was annoyed by a tissue paper seller while he was having a meal at a hawker centre and how he had chosen to ignore the seller. However, as he reflected on the incident later, he was convicted that his behaviour towards the seller wasn’t appropriate. He realised that he had not shown compassion to the seller, something he should have done as a Christian.
This set me thinking. What is compassion and what impact does it have on how I conduct myself as a follower of Christ?
Compassion is defined as feeling another person’s pain, accompanied by a desire to take action to help to relieve their suffering. It is derived from Latin which means ‘to suffer together’. Compassion compels us to take action to help others.
There are many stories of acts of compassion in the Bible. The parable of the Good Samaritan is a good model of how we can show compassion and help someone in need, even a total stranger (Luke 10: 25-37). Our Lord Jesus is a compassionate Saviour. There are many accounts mentioned in the Gospels where He showed compassion. Mark 6:34 relates that when Jesus saw the large crowd, He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So He began teaching them many things.
There were also many instances where our Saviour showed compassion on those who were hurt and marginalised. Matt 20:30-34 tells us that Jesus had compassion on two blind men sitting by the roadside. When they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, has mercy on us!” Jesus stopped and asked, “What do you want me to do for you?’ They answered, “Lord, we want our sight.” In the midst of the large crowd, Jesus’s compassion led him to stop and heal them. Jesus also showed compassion by healing the women with a haemorrhage even though it was customarily inappropriate for her to touch Him (Luke 8:42-48), and he healed the lepers who were ostracised by society (Matt 8:1-4).
The Bible shows us that compassion is one of the defining virtues of Christians, and like Christ, it should be woven into the very fabric of our belief and lives as His followers. Every person mattered to Jesus, and because He first loved and showed compassion to us, we can and ought to show compassion to all, believers and pre-believers.
Upon reflection, I realised that I had failed many times to exercise compassion in everyday life. Like the example mentioned, I had been prone to ignore tissue sellers or other peddlers at hawker centres and was often annoyed by their presence. Reading the article has served as a wakeup call for me. Even if I may not buy from them, I can at least say ‘No, thank you’ and whisper a prayer of blessing for them.
In all things, big or small, I pray to the Lord that we may do better each day to show compassion to the people around us. With God’s help, being mindful of the need to do so daily is a step forward we can take.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12)
by brother Thomas Teo