Compassion: The Key to Full-Time Service
Mr. Baker was getting ready to introduce the subject of compassion to his eleventh-grade Bible class during the first week in December after discussing love in November. He had the phrase from Jude 22 on the board, "and of some have compassion, making a difference." Underneath he had three principles listed:
- Compassion is helping people who can't help themselves.
- Compassion is teaching people to help themselves.
- Compassion is helping people eternally.
He read them several articles, one of them from a news magazine about the condition of starving children in Africa and another from a Christian publication on how to help older widows. One of the articles mentioned that relief work in the Third-World countries was not just concerned with giving water, food and drink, but was involved in teaching the people how to dig wells, raise more productive crops, raise their own meat or fish, and improve the quality of their herds.
Then he asked the students to discuss the question, "How can we put our biblical love into action to the glory of God so that it will make a difference?" In the discussion that followed, these points evolved:
- Compassion is not just sympathy or feeling sad or even shedding tears for the unfortunate. Compassion is love in action. In all the biblical examples of compassion, such as the account of The Good Samaritan, there is action. James 1:22 says, "Be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only." In Isaiah 1:17 we are told to "learn [make it a practice] to do well."
- Compassion should be practiced at home and at school by being on the alert for opportunities to help parents, siblings, teachers, and classmates, and not be a burden by having a selfish, rebellious attitude.
- There are many good deeds to be done all around us; which ones should we be doing? Jude 22 says, "And of some have compassion, making a difference." Compassion should affect or change someone else's life. Toward this end, compassion would also include warning others against evil such as illicit sex, pornography, abortion, drugs (including alcohol), or anything else that could ruin their lives.
Since the class had defined love in November as "an unselfish or self-sacrificing desire to meet the needs of the loved object," they felt that real compassion should involve a sacrifice of one's time, effort, and money. The questions Mr. Baker then asked the class brought forth a flurry of ideas based on these guidelines:
- How can we put our biblical love into action to the glory of God so that it will make a difference?
- What acts of compassion are practical for teens and under which principle would they best fit?
- What compassion project can we best do as a class?
The class came up with several ideas, such as creating a Christmas basket, but they rejected that idea because it would be feeding people for only one meal or one day, not making much of a difference. Besides, most of the canned food would come from their mothers' kitchens with no sacrifice on the part of the students. After two periods of discussion, the list on the board looked like this:
- Help people who can't help themselves
- Older people--rake their leaves, do their grocery shopping, run errands, do odd jobs, be a helper at the Meals on Wheels center.
- Orphans and widows--should be the special recipient of our compassion (James 1:27).
- Handicapped people--volunteer to help on the Saturday recreation program for them.
- Needy people--supply them with food, clothing, and oil for heat (James 2:15-16), perhaps paint and decorate their houses, serve meals at the homeless kitchen run by the downtown church.
- Sick people--volunteer at the local hospital.
- Teach them a skill, such as English or the use of tools.
- Help at the pregnancy counseling center or the mission home for unwed mothers or abused women.
- Help at the Special Olympics program for the handicapped put on by the church each spring.
- Invite someone to church each week.
- Pass out tracts or phone evangelism cards.
- Send a gospel letter to friends or relatives in another city or state.
- Give a personal witness to someone at least once a month.
- Get on a gospel team run by the youth group.
- Go on a summer gospel or missionary team to another country.
- Support an orphan at an overseas Christian orphanage for $10 a month.
One student said, "Why can't we do one project under each principle?" In discussing Principle No. 1, they decided to take on a project of helping the 80-year-old widow who lived alone in the white house near the school. She had a hard time getting out to buy groceries. Several girls volunteered to do her grocery shopping for her. Several other girls decided to visit her one day a week and read to her from Christian publications, since her eyesight was failing. Four boys volunteered to rake her leaves and dig her garden. Two other girls who passed by her house every day on the way home from school agreed to stop by and check on her.
Under principle No. 2 the girls chose to help at the mission home for unwed mothers and abused women. The boys determined they would help at the Special Olympics program for the handicapped.
They chose under Principle No. 3 to support an orphan in a Christian orphanage in Nigeria for $10 a month, which would mean that the students would have to contribute $.50 from their allowance each month.
After a challenge by Mr. Baker, the class agreed that they each would invite someone to church. When he asked about passing out tracts or phone evangelism, they all took some of the tracts Mr. Baker had brought to class. About half the class agreed to write a gospel letter. Four students agreed to give a personal witness to friends at least once. Two students with musical talent said they would join the gospel team run by the youth group, and one young man said he would go with a mission team the next summer.
In winding up the class period just before Christmas vacation, the students asked two questions: 1. Why do some people not feel any compassion? 2. How will we know if we made a difference after showing compassion? In answer to the first question, Mr. Baker explained that the amount of compassion a person has is a result of early training in the family. The oldest child tends to be giving and the youngest child or an only child tends to be more self-centered and a taker. It was also the result of the type of parents you have. Some parents are givers and some are takers. Since love comes from God and is part of the fruit of the Spirit, the results of an adverse home background and a selfish self-centered personality can be drastically changed by being filled with the Holy Spirit.
In answer to the second question, he said that while compassion should be the theme of every ministry, not all compassionate action brings immediate results. Missionaries and preachers often do not see immediate life-changing results. So it is with some of our own deeds. However, the command from the Lord is to plant and water and He will give the increase in His time. One can be sure that love with compassion will make an eternal difference. As the bell rang for Christmas vacation, Mr. Baker wondered if their three-week discussion of compassion had made a difference in his students' lives.