Christ’s Compassionate Love
A simple dictionary meaning for the word compassion is a feeling one has towards the suffering of others which prompts him to offer help. I would equate this to being empathetic towards someone who is hurting rather than sympathetic. Someone who is empathetic would try to get into the other persons shoes to feel and understand what he feels, but a sympathetic person would only feel pity and sorry for the other person without having an idea of his pain.
The first greatest act of God for showing empathy towards mankind is by letting Christ come down in the form of flesh. This was to ensure that Christ lived a normal life of an ordinary human being, experienced the joys, pains, sorrows and sufferings any other human being would go through in the same way (John 1:14, Hebrews 2 :7-9; 4:15 ).
The most interesting act of love however, is on how Christ chose to share in the sufferings of others. This is clearly shown by his gestures of identifying with the poor, the marginalized, the despised and outcasts of the society. His actions bothered most of the religious leaders at the time and if it were to happen today, it would also bother many Christian leaders that we have in our churches.
Jesus showed compassion to all the ‘wrong people’ of the society and for very weird reasons. At times even His disciples failed to understand His acts of mercy. Apart from all the obvious miracles that Jesus performed, like feeding the five thousand, driving out demons or healing the sick, there were various actions that Jesus took which baffled both the disciples and the teaches of the law.
The first incident that I can mention is that of a sinful woman who anointed Jesus feet with oil at a Pharisee’s house named Simon. All who were present felt that she should not have even come close to Christ. But the way Christ responded to her showed much love and mercy which all the others could not understand (Luke 7:36-50). Two other similar incidences to these are that of a woman caught in adultery (John 8:3-11), and that of a Samaritan woman who Jesus spoke to at the well of Jacob (John 4:4-27).
In all these incidences Jesus shows compassion to these women who have already been judged and condemned by the society. The reason I picked these three women is because of the different cases of prejudices depicted in their situations. Of course the women may have been known for recurrent evil deeds, but the most remarkable thing is the admiration on how Jesus dealt with their situations, with much love and mercy.
In the first case we see a woman who has already been judged by the community to be a sinner (maybe she was) and was not expected anywhere near Christ, who was not only a Rabbi but also righteous and holy. In many cases we find a number of Christians in the position this community was in. As Christians we judge so many people around us because of their evil deeds and even forget that Christ expects us to show them love instead of hate and condemnation.
The hate towards sin for many Christians has always been turned to hate towards the sinner. As a result, Christians would rather have nothing to do with such people within the society in order to preserve their own reputation. This is why in many occasions we see people of questionable character being driven away from Christian gatherings.
In the second case we see a woman who has been caught red handed committing adultery. The most amazing thing is that the man she was caught in the act with was nowhere to be seen. Jesus’ response to the situation amazed all the Pharisees and even His audience. Just as the Pharisees were always fond of making partial judgments on the sins committed by other people, many Christians today tend to fall under the same category.
By making partial judgment on other people we tend to put ourselves on the spot for God’s judgment because of forgetting that we too are sinners. When Jesus told the Pharisees that whoever had not sinned to cast the first stone, He reminded them of their own sins. In the same way, Christ expects us to forgive others for their sins just as God has forgiven us.
Therefore, our duty as Christians towards others is not supposed to be that of judges but of people who show mercy, compassion and by extension the love of Christ to them through forgiveness and acceptance. Christ demonstrated this love by forgiving those who crucified Him and He expects the same from us as Christians.
The third case that we see is that of Jesus’ conversation with a Samaritan woman. This case presents to us ethnic and customary prejudices among the Jewish community. When the disciples came back from buying food, they were surprised to see Jesus speaking to a Samaritan woman by the well and were reluctant to approach them.
There are three issues in this event. The first challenge is that of the woman being a Samaritan. According to Jewish customs, Samaritans were a people who were considered to be of a lower status in the society and they were not to associate with them in any way. Any contact with a Samaritan would lower their dignity as Jews. The second issue is that the Samaritan was a woman and Jesus hardly knew her. Jews had a problem with women being of the same status as men in the society.
It was therefore generally expected of a Rabbi not to be found somewhere with a strange woman in deep conversation unless she had some kind of relation to him or she came to Him for help. This is why the disciples had doubts in their minds and started questioning themselves concerning the actions of their master.
The third and final issue is that this woman, from common knowledge of her community had been with five men and was looking at Jesus as a prospective suitor. This was morally unaccepted in the society. The way Jesus reacted to the woman’s inquisitiveness and shared with her about His mission helped the woman be able to share with her community about the revelation of the promised messiah.
From the story of the Samaritan woman we realize that even in today’s society we have our own prejudices towards certain people because of their race, religion, gender or even social class and status within the society. These prejudices have always been a major hindrance for Christians in their quest to share the love of Christ with others.
The stories of these three women are just but a few examples of how Christ showed compassion and love to the least expected in the society. By demonstrating this kind of love, Christ teaches us that love should have no bounds and that everyone deserves to be loved regardless of who they are, what they have done or what they stand for. In this way we will be able to fulfill Christ’s command of love for our neighbors.