I absolutely love Christmas. There’s something about this time of year that makes people more generous, kind, and just a bit more pleasant to be around. This seems to be the case for Christians and non-Christians alike.
I know it’s not true for everyone, but Christmas brings out people’s care for one another. I wish this shift in people’s thinking would last past December.
But for Christians, it’s absolutely necessary this mindset doesn’t just pop-up once a year. Caring and loving others is central to what we are called to do. Our faith is not limited to the relationship between me and Jesus. That’s important, but so is the way we interact with others.
For your faith to not change the way you see and talk to others is a sin. I know that sounds like a strong statement, but in Matthew 25 Jesus talks about caring for others being fundamental to caring for him.
The trend of thinking of others during the holiday season falls short of what Jesus is requiring of us. He expects us to be compassionate and empathetic towards others in our daily lives–and in more areas than our money (though that’s important). Oftentimes, we give physical gifts during Christmas, which isn’t a bad tradition, but compassion and empathy need to be more than Christmas gifts.
Jesus himself shows us several different ways to be compassionate towards others that you might have never thought of.
Here are three key ways to have compassion like Jesus had.
1. Physical Compassion
This is something I think we get right during Christmas time, but we don’t always associate it with our faith. But even Jesus saw the physical needs of others and had compassion on them.
“I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with me three days and have nothing to eat.” (Mark 8:2)
In this moment, Jesus was on day three of teaching hundreds of people. And at this point in the story we find out that the people didn’t have enough food to sustain them. What is Jesus’ response? Compassion.
Food is such a basic human need, and the Savior of the world was concerned when this need wasn’t being met. Jesus intervenes and performs a miracle. I had never thought about it this way before, but the motivation behind Jesus’ miracle was compassion. I’ve always focused on the miracle of Jesus feeding the multitude and have often skipped past the small but important detail of his motivation.
Jesus came to bring salvation for our souls. But in that process, he had compassion for people’s physical needs too.
You and I can show compassion towards others by caring for their physical needs. The size of the need doesn’t matter, but your heart of compassion should move you to care for the physical needs of others.
2. Emotional Compassion
Jesus modeled emotional compassion, but I think similar to the previous example we don’t see it because we’re in awe of the miracle.
“As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don’t cry.’” (Luke 7:12-13)
At this point, the boy was already dead and his mother was completely heart-broken, as I’m sure you can imagine. The bible describes Jesus as having compassion not on the son, but on the mother. He was empathetic towards her and the loss she just experienced. I can’t even imagine losing my son. I’ve heard this is one of the most devastating types of losses and as someone who lost my mom, I would imagine losing a child is even more difficult.
Again, it was his compassion for this mother that motivated him to perform a miracle. He was caring for her emotional need.
I think this might be one of the most difficult ways for us to be compassionate for others. In order to care for someone’s emotional needs we have to stop, hear them, and be present with them. It’s not as easy as buying someone a pair of shoes or a meal for the holidays.
Emotional needs oftentimes require a prolonged (and often inconveniently timed) response of compassion.
Of course, we see Jesus raise her son from the dead. But that is likely not the way you will care for someone’s emotional needs. You will probably have to invest a lot of time listening and finding creative ways to care for the emotional needs of someone else. Caring for someone’s emotional needs goes just as far as caring for their physical needs.
It’s important we don’t trap ourselves into thinking compassion is only about caring for the physical needs of others and overlook the dire emotional needs staring us in the face.
I would imagine you know far more people suffering emotionally than you do suffering physically. You have the opportunity to step into this space with them and to genuinely find ways you can help.
3. Spiritual Compassion
Yes, we all know that Jesus cares for the spiritual needs of people, that is what the good news is all about. Jesus came to bring salvation. That’s a soul issue.
“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'” (Matthew 9:35-38)
Jesus wasn’t just fulfilling his mission. He was genuinely distraught over the spiritual condition of the people he saw. Yet again, we see the bible describe Jesus as having compassion on the people. In this case his compassion was for their spiritual state because they were being led astray.
When it comes to us having compassion for the spiritual needs of others, certainly we should care about those who have not received salvation. But we should also care about the spiritual needs of those who are saved.
You might know someone who is struggling with their faith and that doesn’t mean they aren’t saved, but you can come alongside them during this time of doubt. There are many life moments that can challenge our faith. But when we’re connected to other believers, we can be encouraged and strengthened.
This is another one of those areas in someone’s life that we don’t often think we can be helpful. It’s also an area we may overlook in the life of our close friends. That’s why it’s important that we’re connected with other people in such a way that we would know when they’re spiritually struggling.
This is what the body of Christ is supposed to be for one another. We are to be close enough to others to know when they are struggling in their faith and to have enough compassion to come alongside them.
Jesus has compassion for the whole person. So should we.
Jesus gave us a model of compassion that we can embody. He cared for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of others. He cared for the whole person and not just aspects of the person.
We shouldn’t limit our compassion to only one of these areas but rather, we should have a holistic understanding of biblical compassion. Your love of Jesus can be displayed in the compassion you have for others.
This Christmas season, I encourage you to identify ways you can be compassionate that don’t come natural or easy to you. Find different ways that you can extend compassion towards others in your daily life.
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