Moved By Compassion

Pulling up to an intersection and seeing somebody with a sign asking for money… I don’t know about you, but quite a few thoughts run through my mind. First of all, I like to read their sign without them seeing me read it. If they see me read it, they tend to walk closer and that can make things quite awkward. So I use my “peripheral reading skills.”

Then I check out their clothes and backpack. If they have a nice clothes and expensive backpack then I’m suspicious.

After doing a little research on this I’ve read that some are “working this” as their job, which is where the suspicion comes in. I don’t end up responding very often. Sometimes, but rarely, I’ll give a bottled water or food if I have any.

Not too long ago I drove up to this intersection and saw a guy with his sign about family and needing $, and something in my heart sank. I’d never seen him before. I was trying to figure out why I was hit by this guy’s situation. I prayed quickly under my breath (“God is this you wanting me to do something?”). He came over to the car and I gave him some money and told him I’d pray for him.

Something just seemed right about the whole thing.?!

Anyway, there is this dynamic of God giving us His heart in different situations. You never know for sure if it is God, but there are some helpful indicators which can include the following:

  • An increased focus and awareness of someone’s plight or pain.
  • A feeling of compassion and desire to do something.
  • An almost natural response of praying (maybe just a simple “Oh God, help!”).
  • A sense of urgency.
  • Feeling like a jerk if you walk away and don’t do anything.
  • Thinking about it on and off for a few hours after the situation (typically a call to pray, or maybe conviction for not responding).

My son was driving down Chambers Road and saw a guy repairing his broken down fence. He “felt” compelled to stop and help. He kept driving but couldn’t shake it so he turned around and went back. After walking up to the guy he sheepishly asked if he could help. The guy was a little shocked (as you could imagine) and said he needed to ask his father if it was okay. Once they figured out he wasn’t gonna do anything weird, they welcomed his assistance, which they desperately needed at just that moment. Pretty cool.

On several occasions the Gospels record that Jesus was “moved with compassion.” It always preceded Him healing or feeding people.

When we look at making a difference, there are many practices we can incorporate to make it a part of our lifestyle. One practice is learning to pay attention to God’s compassion for others.

Of course there are times when we feel nothing and so “feeling” compassion is not the ultimate gauge. However, it can be a natural part of following Jesus.

One of my favorite quotes is from A. W. Tozer’s Pursuit of God:

I venture to suggest that the one vital quality which they (great men and women of God) had in common was spiritual receptivity. Something in them was open to heaven, something which urged them Godward. Without attempting anything like a profound analysis I shall say simply that they had spiritual awareness and that they went on to cultivate it until it became the biggest thing in their lives. They differed from the average person in that when they felt the inward longing they did something about it. They acquired the lifelong habit of spiritual response.

So how about trying this little experiment – ask Jesus to move you with compassion this week in some situation. Ask Him to remind you when it is happening and to give you wisdom in how to act. Then go for it and see what happens.

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