We all probably are familiar with passion: that rush of emotion and sensation for something or someone that causes us to reprioritize everything else as 2nd place. Being passionate is one of my favorite states of being. It is like an unseen force or energy drives me to pursue the object of my passion. In recent years I developed something of a passion for playing guitar. I have no talent, which tempered that passion rather quickly, but I still enjoy it.
Compassion, on the other hand, is a strong response in emotion or feeling for another. Passion for my interests, compassion for my neighbor’s interests. As we read about Jesus in Matthew 9:36:
Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.
Jesus had both passion and compassion for humanity. He still does. Being the manifestation of God the Father within His creation, He demonstrated both of these continuously. Some people say the Bible is an instruction manual; a book that tells humans how to live. I suppose that it could be perceived that way, but the bigger picture is the story of God’s creation of – and continual pursuit of – His beloved humans. It is an epic tale of passion and compassion.
As Jesus daily walked the earth, He demonstrated His passion for the people. At the same time, He had compassion for them because they were suffering. By the way, we (the people) are the reason there is suffering in the first place. We rebelled against God. Yet God persists in His pursuit.
I have been repeatedly challenged recently to look into the faces of the people I encounter, to look a little deeper or a little longer, to see the underlying suffering. For the first time in my entire life, this week I wept for suffering people whom I do not know. Their existence and the existence of their pain touched my heart: we are all fellow sufferers. No one gets through life without suffering. Many of us cover it up, put on our best face, and try to shuffle through the day without getting caught suffering. ALL of us suffer.
Jesus wasn’t just showing us how to live. He was showing us God’s response to our suffering, even though we brought it on ourselves. His compassion changes lives… eternally. God’s passion and compassion are pure, relentless, perfect.
Some of us who know Jesus are going through difficult seasons of our own, and even though eternity with God is our ultimate destiny, sometimes getting through the day is very hard. Lately, when I look into the faces of the people I meet, even if they have done a superb job of covering up their suffering, I am finding I have compassion for them.
This is one of those real-life applications of the 2nd great commandment:
“…love your neighbor as yourself” Matthew 22:39
In loving someone else – even just enough to pause and have compassion for them – we find that our own difficulties are diminished, our hearts are softened, our loads are lightened.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2