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Heart Check

Do you know the difference between compassion and Biblical compassion?  Random House defines compassion as “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.”  By this definition, compassion is a combination of feeling and activity.  This definition is good, but incomplete when compared to Biblical compassion.  Biblical compassion is a heart-felt attachment to the needs of others and heart-felt action to meet that need based on the character of God.

Learning to live with Biblical compassion will revolutionize the way you see the world around you.  No longer can you simply live for your own needs.  You are responsible for the world around you.  No longer can you notice a need and simply sit back and let it go unmet.  You are responsible to the people around you.  No longer can your love for people be limited to a mission trip, to a project, or to a program through your church.  You begin to see the real-time needs of people around you almost everywhere you go.  Your heart begins to reformat itself and consistent expressions of God’s love and kindness are the result.

The church today should be teaching and modeling God-centered, Biblical compassion.  The church should be in the lead when it comes to producing compassionate followers who are committed to meeting the needs of the world around us.  The church shouldn’t come in second place to star-driven campaigns or flash in the pan causes.  The church shouldn’t just look to meet its own needs.  It should be looking to meet the needs of others.  Based on what we know of God and based on what we know of the world around us, the time has come for the church to act with God-centered, Biblical compassion.

For the church to take this step, we must learn about the heart of our heavenly father.  Remember, Biblical compassion starts with the heart of God not with the needs of man.  We must understand that at compassion is at the core of God’s character.  Don’t miss Jesus’ response to the needs of his world:

35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  Matthew 9:35-38
What we see in this passage is the heart of the Father expressed perfectly by his Son.  We see Jesus expressing his compassion by teaching and healing people of their disease and sickness.  We see this as instead of being impressed by the crowds he is drawing, he is impressed by the great needs of others.  Our lesson doesn’t stop there.  We also see that it is God’s desire that all engage with acts of compassion to those in need.  I can imagine Jesus’ tear-filled eyes as he commands his disciples to pray for more workers to enter the harvest field.

Understanding the condition of our Heavenly Father’s heart should lead us to analyze the condition of our own hearts.  I learned this lesson for myself almost two decades ago.  My dad was driving home from playing golf one Sunday afternoon just as he had done many times before.  This day was different though because as he drove his blood stopped flowing through his heart causing his heart to explode in his chest as he was driving.  His car went from side-to-side on the road eventually coming to rest in a field.  Despite the heroic measures of some medically trained bystanders, he died that day.

I am not typically a hypochondriac but for the next six months, every time I walked up stairs or walked across a parking lot, I would feel my chest tighten and my heart race.  I was certain that I had issues with my heart.  I went to the doctor multiple times to figure it out.  Each time I went to the doctor, the conversation went something like this:  “Doc, I am dying here.  I know that I am only 23, but here’s my history.  My dad passed away from a heart attack 6 months ago and my mom is just about to undergo triple bypass surgery.”  The doctor would then argue with me saying that I was perfectly healthy and that I didn’t need any tests.  Even with his advice, I went back time and time again.  I knew the condition of my dad’s heart and I wasn’t going to let my heart go uninspected.

Finally, the doctor relented and ordered a couple of tests.   The first was a stress test.  They hooked me up to an EKG and put me on a treadmill.  Let me just say that a stress test is not the best time to step on a treadmill for the first time, but that is what I did.  I did my best to get through seven hard minutes.  At the end, to my amazement, the technician said, “You look great.  You are fine.”  The next test was an echocardiogram.  For this test, they laid me on an exam table, rubbed cold gel on my chest, and then used a sonogram to check out how my heart was functioning.  As I watched blood pump through my heart on the display screen, I kept thinking, this is bad news.  I see a problem.  The tech disagreed.  At the end of the test, I was given a full bill of health.

The doctor was right all along.  I was perfectly healthy.  My heart was fine.  Even though I felt a little silly for pressing so hard for the tests, I was glad that I did.  I know knew the condition of my heart.  I knew how my heart compared to my father’s heart.
How’s your heart?  Based on what you know of our Heavenly Father’s heart, I have to ask:  What is the condition of your heart when it comes to responding with compassion?