When I chose to pursue a nursing career, I knew that I would be serving people. However, I had no idea to what extent I would be pouring myself out in service to complete strangers.
If you would have told me in high school, “You’ll spend 12-15 hours a shift serving mostly ungrateful, even hateful people, in some of the most disgusting/embarrassing ways. You’ll rarely, if ever, be told thank you. You’ll be slapped, pushed, cussed at, and sexually harassed. You’ll sometimes go 8-10 hours without a moment’s break for the restroom or food or water. Oh, and, you’ll be expected to smile and be nice 100% of the time”, I probably would not have chosen this path.
But, in high school, I couldn’t see all of the burdens and hardships of my “calling”. All I could see was a world full of hurting people who needed kindness, service, counseling, a listening ear, healing, and compassion. And that, is what drove me into the beautiful, and chaotic, life of a nurse.
In Matthew 9:35-38, we read the legendary section about Christ having “compassion” on a “harassed and helpless” crowd of people. This passage sounds so sweet and magical and wonderful. But do you know what Christ was going through at this point when He chose compassion and service on this wondering crowd?
Fast forward to Matthew 14:10-13. One of Christ’s best friends, John, was beheaded in prison-a most undeserving death for his discipleship to Christ. When Christ hears of this devastating news, we are told “he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself”. Stop right here.
As a nurse, sometimes I literally only catch a breather while using the restroom. Terrible, I know. But what is worse, is most of the time, I even get multiple calls of “urgent” needs from Doctors, nurses, managers, or patients WHILE I’M USING THE RESTROOM.
So, here is Christ, exhausted, and devastated, just..trying…to catch..His..breath. He only wanted a moment to himself to possibly grief, or pray, or re-energize from the masses of needy people sucking out all his human energy. So, He hops in a boat and escapes to a desolate place. And what happens?
“But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns” (vs 13). They found Him. They followed Him. They needed Him. And now, now we see His profound reaction in verse 14, “When He went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” Wow.
I read this and I am truly humbled, broken hearted, and in awe of our Savior’s ability to choose compassion in one of the toughest moments of His ministry up to this point. I can’t help but wonder, what keeps us from choosing compassion when others reach out to us?
Here are 3 common restrictions I typically place on when, where, how, and to whom I share compassion with:
“I’ll show compassion, unless I get burned in the process.”
A classic example is handing money to a homeless person who you later see buying alcohol at the gas station next door. Or, helping out a friend or stranger when it was incredibly inconvenient for me, all to have them never thank you or even mistreat you after. My point is, too often we allow ourselves to become calloused to those who desperately need our attention, investment, service, and compassion to the point we turn the other way and hope someone else “takes care of them”. Check out what Matthew 25:31-46 has to say about looking the other way: “as you did not do it to one of the least of these, jyoudid not do it to me.” We aren’t really given the luxury of only serving others when it is convenient, easy, repaid, or even wanted. We are simply called to serve. Called to have compassion.
“I’ll show compassion if they deserve it. “
Whew. This one hits me hard. I can’t count how many times I’ve chosen not to invest in others simply because I don’t find them “deserving” of my time and attention whether due to their baggage, current life situation, or being rough around the edges. I’m not sure when I developed this entitlement of, “I’m only going to help classy, respected, loving, appreciative people”. But it is devastating to sharing the Kingdom with the broken in the world. Christ Himself leads by example when He teaches us in Mark 2:17 that He “did not come to call the righteous, but sinners”. He came to heal the sick, not the healthy. And that could only be accomplished by unrestricted compassion.
“I’ll show compassion if I see the benefits from it.”
It is human nature to enjoy that pat on the back or “good job!” after doing something good for others. It is also human nature to do good in hopes of reaping something in return or having immediate satisfaction that our action led to a life change in the recipient. This isn’t Christ’s nature, however. Often He never received credit for His countless acts of goodness and service. Often He never received anything in return. Often He saw the recipient of His compassion and goodness turn away, reject Him, and blaspheme Him. And yet, He still..chose..compassion.
Christ’s compassion was not restricted or conditional. He saw people in need and He responded. Period. Sometimes even to the same people who continued to mess up or waver in their commitment on Him. Christ was so quick to choose compassion. I love this quality of our Savior and brother. And I am truly compelled to do better. To be better. To choose compassion. Period.
Will you join me?