Today’s post is written by Mike Sohm.

When “compassion” is part of your name and identity, it speaks to what drives and motivates you as an organization.

AIDS - Feeding patient email

Compassion is not something you can fake or sustain long term on your own. It is revealed in response to something external to ourselves, and it often results in responses that surprise people. Compassion should characterize the life of every follower of Christ because it reflects the character of God the Father, is revealed in the life of Jesus the Son, and is empowered by the work of the Holy Spirit.

When God revealed Himself to Moses, He said this about Himself: I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and will have compassion on whom I will have compassion (Exodus 33:19). Consider how God repeatedly showed mercy and compassion to His people in the Old Testament. Their actions were deserving of punishment, yet when they repented, God was merciful. Knowing God is compassionate gives us the courage and hope to go before Him and seek mercy.

Jesus Christ revealed compassion in how He responded to the sick, hungry, and spiritually needy. I have always been deeply moved by the story in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus encounters a man with leprosy (Mark 1:40-45). At one point in my life, I worked in northeast Thailand with people who had leprosy and who suffered the physical and social consequences of that disease. Learning to be comfortable around people who had leprosy took some time, but understanding what they had gone through would take a lifetime.

When the man with leprosy came to Jesus, he was desperate. As a leper he was cut him off from his own people, the temple, and the larger community. In desperation, he fell on his knees and begged Jesus: If you are willing, you can make me clean (Mark 1:40).

Carina and Kadjatou at hosp

Jesus did something that is shocking from both a Jewish and a human standpoint. He reached out and touched the man. Jesus touched someone with a communicable disease. He touched someone who was “unclean” and He healed the man. If you have not lived or worked among those with leprosy, it’s hard to convey to you how huge this was. Jesus made a powerful statement to this man when He touched him. Compassion leads us to do things others see as “crazy.”

Jesus acted with compassion at another time to feed 4,000 people who had come to listen to him. He also was moved with compassion by the spiritual plight of lost people, and His response was to exhort his disciples to pray for more workers in the harvest (Matthew 9:37-38).

For the Christian, compassion is part of who we are in Christ. As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, we are to clothe ourselves with compassion (Colossians 3:12). Compassion is not cheap, superficial, or short lived. It is deep, powerful, and costly. The word used in the New Testament for compassion speaks of that deep, compelling emotion you feel in your gut that moves you to act. Jesus felt that emotion as He touched and healed a leper.

God the Father is a compassionate God. Jesus the Son revealed what compassion looks like in how we relate to those in need. The Holy Spirit, who lives within us, empowers us to be people who feel deeply and act deliberately to meet needs we might otherwise be tempted to avoid.