My wife and I watched a 20/20 story on Kayla Mueller the other day. It was a remarkable story of a young Christian woman from the United States who went to a war torn area in the middle east to show the compassion and love of Jesus to others. Everyone who worked with and around her commented on how kind, loving, joyful and compassionate Kayla was. One afternoon, while traveling to assist a humanitarian group (Doctors Without Borders) she was kidnapped by ISIS. Kayla was beaten and raped by her captors - yet all the while, other captors with her, noticed her hopeful, kind and compassionate spirit even amidst great adversity. During her time in captivity, multiple people were sought to assist Kayla and to see her released. The US Government, while securing the release of a traitor and rescuing other victims did not seem to show the same interest in rescuing Kayla. Kayla's family felt abandoned by their own country. In addition, the humanitarian group would not help, even though they had multiple opportunities to do so. The reason: Kayla did not work for them, they could only assist those who they were directly responsible for. Asked if they had a moral responsibility to seek Kayla's rescue, the director said no.
Sadly, I think this is the response of many of us - not just on matters of international significance but also matters very close to home. We hear of people around us who are hurting, being oppressed, needing assistance - and we regularly turn our eyes away to these people. Maybe it is because they are not like us, or that they are not really our responsibility or that we can not do as much as the need so we decide to do nothing. Even among followers of Christ our compassion towards others is often limited.
Yet, as I look at the life and ministry of Jesus - he was regularly looking to help, serve and minister to those who were hurting, oppressed, in need - in many cases people who were in those positions not because of random acts of violence but of their own willful foolish decisions. Jesus would eat with the marginalized (tax collectors, prostitutes); he would spend time with the outcasts (l leper), and he would help the needy (blind, sick, mourning). Jesus was filled with compassion - not just for their spiritual needs (he was) but for their physical needs too. He provided an example of what true compassion looks like in the kingdom of God for us. But even more - he showed compassion to us - disobedient sinners, outcasts, dead, needy - in that he came to this earth to serve us, to love us, to die for us on the cross and to purchase our pardon and salvation through his substitutionary work on our behalf. He was compassionate to us in a way that cost him greatly - his time, his position, his life.
Of all the people in the world who should be the most compassionate are those who have experienced the greatest compassion. Jesus has shown us that - are you compassionate to others - to those you see who are hurting, needy, oppressed, sick, cold,...not just praying for them- but being compassionate in a way that costs us something - our time, our money, our position, our life. Who can you show compassion to this week? How can you show compassion to those in your sphere of influence? How can you be a vibrant disciple of Jesus that puts the gospel on display for all to see & others to experience first hand. Compassion - you got some, let's give some...