David and Goliath, Jonah and the fish, Daniel and the lion’s den, Joseph and the coat of many colors, Moses parting the red sea—all stories near and dear to our hearts. Born into a Christian family, the characters, dilemmas, victories, and life lessons from these stories are embedded into my memory forever.
What fascinates me most about the Bible, however, is that we can read the same accounts over and over again, throughout our entire life, and somehow find a new lesson or perspective nearly every time we read through such familiar stories. For example, since I was a child, I’ve listened to and read the account of Jesus feeding a multitude with only a few loaves and bread and a couple of fish. My entire life, I focused on the miracle performed.
Two days ago, however, God showed me a new depth to this story. This transformation within the story began with a simple phrase, “He had compassion on them” (Matthew 14:13).
As Jesus sought out a solitary place to mourn the murder of His cousin and dear friend, he came to a land crowded by between 5,000-15,000 people. Jesus – exhausted, sad, frustrated, and in serious need of alone time – could have easily turned and found another spot to land his boat. But instead, as His eyes fell upon the hungry, sick, lost and broken people, He was moved with compassion to do something.
Jesus’ compassion surfaces all through out the Gospels. He was moved with compassion towards two blind outcasts (Matthew 20:34). He visited various villages healing the sick, casting out demons, and tending to the needy, all because His compassion for such people moved Him to action (Matthew 9:36).
His compassion is unlike any other. His compassion exceeds merely a feeling of sympathy inside. His compassion involves taking a feeling and turning it into intervention. Jesus saw broken people, and despite His own situations, opened His heart to their situation, and then worked towards bringing them peace through the message of God’s word.
This healing process, this intervention, this action-based life that Jesus led, centered around one word. Forgiveness.
Forgiveness was the very intervention needed to break down any barriers between Jesus and the people who moved Him to compassion, who moved Him to heal, to feed, to preach, to save.
How many times in our daily activities, do we push aside, ignore, and avoid people in need of God’s word, in need of attention, in need of love, in need of guidance, in need of compassion and intervention, simply because we’re too stubborn to forgive?
We are told to be “merciful”, just as our “Father is merciful”, and to allow this mercy to lead us to forgive others so that we too can be forgiven (Luke 6:36-37
In order to truly intervene in the lives of those who need God the most, who need mercy, we must have compassion. However, in order for our hearts to overflow with compassion, we must be willing to forgive.
Think if Christ were to have sailed up to that beach full of lost, broken sinners, and decided not to forgive. Think if Christ would have seen those two blind men, and decided not to forgive. Think if Christ would have entered and exited all of those villages with sick and needy people, and decided not to forgive. Think if Christ would have envisioned you on the day of crucifixion, and decided not to forgive.
Christ was and is a Christ of compassion because of His willingness to forgive.
Imagine what this world would be like if the Church decided to have the compassion of Jesus, driven by the ability to forgive.
The truth is, we are called to do much more than imagine such a world and a Church. We are called to live out the pattern left to us by Christ. We are called to be the Kingdom He established—the kingdom that sees broken people and chooses to turn compassion into action. The kingdom that chooses to make the effort, take the time, and stay devoted to forgiving and intervening in the lives of those who are lost, without a shepherd.
We are called to live by the compassion of Jesus Christ.
We are called to live a life full of forgiveness.
The question is, will we answer?