Today’s post is written by Adriaan Overbeeke. Adriaan serves as the chairman of the CAMA Board.

Compassion Is in Our DNA

CAMA came into existence in 1972 out of a compassionate response to the plight of refugees fleeing Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia at the close of the Vietnam War. Moved by compassion, the men and woman who first worked in refugee camps transitioned to the home countries of these refugees to begin development ministries. Through it all, Jesus Christ gave direction to their expression of compassion.

Jesus Is Our Example to Follow

Compassion is best understood when you look at the life of Christ. When Jesus was with a crowd He saw people “distressed and downcast, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36).” He was moved with compassion and taught them. He instructed His disciples to pray that God would send more workers. When a crowd of 4,000 came to Him on a mountainside, He was moved with compassion and fed them.

In Matthew 20 Jesus is walking along the road from Jericho when two blind men shout at the top of their lungs, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.

“Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.” Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.

My favorite example of Christ’s compassion comes from Mark 1:

“And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, ‘If You are willing, You can make me clean.’

“Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.”

So what does Jesus’s life teach us about compassion? Compassion should move us to feed the poor, heal the sick, teach the crowds, and reach out in ways that are sometimes uncomfortable or even violate social norms. When Jesus reached out and touched the man with leprosy, you could hear people in the crowd gasp not believing what they had seen.

Compassion then “fuels acts of kindness and mercy. It is form of love that stirs within us when we are confronted with those who suffer or are helpless. Compassion often produces action to alleviate suffering.”[1]

Jesus Is Our Motivation

Compassion, as a true form of love, is something we must first experience before we can demonstrate. Consider 1 John 4:10,19 “In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sin . . . we love because He first loved us.” In the same way, we show compassion because Jesus Christ first showed us.

Those whose lives have been transformed by the love of God act differently, conforming to a different set of values. The more we come to experience the love of Christ, the more we will be motivated by that same love in our response to others and their circumstances. And it is not only the experience of having been deeply loved by God, but it is the Person and Power of the Holy Spirit who empowers us to be compassionate toward others.

Jesus Directs Our Compassion

When we see a person or group of people in desperate need, it can almost paralyze us. We want to help, but have no idea where to begin. Jesus needs to guide our response to the needs of others because sometimes our efforts can actually result in hurt.

Christ’s love controls or constrains us like a weight, not only adding pressure, but also moving us in a particular direction. Compassion is a powerful emotion and motivator, but if we are solely motivated by the needs of others, we will eventually burn out emotionally or at the least suffer compassion fatigue. Serving others for Christ and in His strength is the only sustainable way.

[1] Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1996.