Core Values Series: Unqualified Compassion
The word most frequently used to describe the ministry of Jesus is compassion. In Matt 9:36, the Gospel writer tells us that, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Later in Matthew, Jesus tells those in the towns and villages where he is speaking, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
One critical meaning of compassion is the capacity to see the truth behind appearances. When you ask how your best friend is doing and they say, “fine,” you can hear all that isn’t being said. To look more deeply is to have compassion. Not perceiving others’ true state of being blunts the depth of the relationship. When Jesus looks at a crowd gathered to hear Him speak, he sees a haggard group of people, besieged and hungry for a way forward; he has compassion on them.
Let’s be real, most of us qualify our compassion for others. We are willing to search for the truth behind appearance up to a point. We all have some line that we may or may not be aware of. The way somebody looks, speaks, acts, thinks, believes…these can all be lines for us and when somebody crosses them it stops us from taking a deeper look. That kind of qualified compassion kills our ability to demonstrate Jesus to others.
It should come as no surprise that unqualified compassion is a prerequisite to working in our Pregnancy Centers. Every single time one of our staff sits across from a woman who has just found out she’s pregnant, they have to be able to see that there is a world of experiences, fears, hopes, expectations, confusions, and more, sitting just behind their eyes. If the counselor cannot perceive that, they can do nothing for the client but add to the already heavy weight they carry. A person without compassion is usually left with little else to offer but indifference or judgment.
A number of years ago I was with a group of people and one of them said, “I just don’t understand these women. They have abortion after abortion and don’t even care.” This person was a supporter of our work, but she had entirely missed the heart of it. We know that, for nearly every post–abortive woman we serve, and for those who are currently considering abortion, there is no innate desire to abort. No one wants an abortion. It is usually the last resort for a life weighed down by too many things to name. If we cannot see that, we have nothing to offer.
Once we’ve seen it though, and we engage people with unqualified compassion, the space opens up inside us for Jesus to do his work. When we begin to see behind the eyes we start to really mean it when we say, “Come to Jesus all you who are weary and burdened, and he will give you rest.”
The rest of Jesus is the thing we are seeking to always demonstrate, sometimes in small ways, sometimes in more significant ways. It’s a relatively small thing to be able to say, “Here’s a basket of items that have been given for you and your baby.” It’s a bigger thing when a client sees her baby on an ultrasound screen, feels the joy of this new life, and decides to parent. It is the biggest thing of all when they say yes to Jesus.
All of this is only possible when we have compassion that isn’t qualified. This is why unqualified compassion is, and will always be, one of our three Core Values at First Image.
Stay tuned for the rest of the First Image core values series, where we share about “Redemptive Conviction” and “Jesus-Centered Transformation.”
Your fellow follower,