What Does It Mean to Be Compassionate?

Once upon a time I heard a powerful sermon on the story of the Good Samaritan. I was challenged by it. I couldn’t wait to blog about it.

And then I didn’t.

I wish I could give you a reason why. But as always, life happens.

But good sermons, sermons that continue to make you think, don’t go out of date. So today I share with you from the heart of Nate Hoffer, executive director of Good Samaritan Shelter, which provides stable transitional housing for men, women and children.

We’ve probably all heard sermons on the Good Samaritan. We may even have preached one. But there was something about this one. It hit places that hurt. Because it’s true. And not trite.

Consider what the story in Luke 10:25–37 should show us. (I’ve added a few thoughts to this, but the majority of it is from Nate.)

Nate began by saying, “The compassion that God showed me is what motivates me.”

What does God’s compassion for you show?

1. Compassion should be based on need not worth. In vs. 31 and 32, the priest and Levite deemed the man not worthy and so they didn’t stop. God showed me compassion by coming to die, because I needed it, not because I was worthy of salvation. If I am showing true compassion it cannot be based on an assessment of whether the recipients are good enough. Do I reserve my compassion only for those I think deserve it?
2. Compassion should cause us to feel something. Verse 33 says the Samaritan felt compassion. This is God poking at our hearts and spirit. Matthew 20:34 talks of Jesus’s meeting two blind men: “Jesus felt sorry for them.” He felt sorry for me too. God doesn’t waste any hardship in your life and wants to ignite the flame of compassion in you. Have I anesthetized myself from the pain of the world, or do I allow myself to feel?
GoodSamaritan-coloring3. Compassion should cause us to do something. Notice the action verbs in verses 34 and 35—came, bandaged, pour, put, brought, took care, took money, gave, and repaid. Back to Jesus and the blind men—notice how Matthew 20:34 continues: “Jesus felt sorry for them and touched their eyes. Instantly they could see!” We need to walk out the emotion of compassion. We must ask ourselves, if the parable of the Good Samaritan were written for my life right now, what action steps would be there for me to do today, this week?
4. Compassion should cost us something. According to verses 34 and 35, it cost the Samaritan time and money and possessions. It cost Jesus his life. For each of us, showing true compassion should be a sacrifice, part of you should die. It is likely it won’t be convenient. Compassion should challenge us to stop taking ownership of our possessions, to stop loving what we have, and instead to give them up and live people. It’s a constant struggle to keep our time, money, and possessions from owning us. What will it cost me to show compassion? Am I willing?
5. Compassion’s expression should be a direct reflection of how we view God’s work in our own lives. It cost God to show compassion to me; it was inconvenient. My job is to model what God’s already done for me. How can I do that today?

Let’s ask God to help us love that person more than we love that thing we must give up, whether it’s our time, our money, or our possessions.

So tell me, what is compassion leading you to do? (Notice it’s easier for me to ask that question of you than to answer it for myself. Pray for me to be courageous enough to be truly compassionate.)

If you’re looking for a good place to start, Good Samaritan Shelter can use your time or your money, and maybe even your possessions. (And Nate Hoffer didn’t make me say that in exchange for using his sermon on the blog.)

2 thoughts on “What Does It Mean to Be Compassionate?”

  1. Carol, a thought-provoking post. It is too easy to view those in distress on our electronic screens and feel compassion, sigh and then sadly move on. Compassion needs to be active. Time for a good hard look at myself and my family. Thank you.


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