The value of compassion, we know as believers, seems to be in great demand today. I am troubled by the news of so many who act in anger and revenge when someone disagrees with their views. The news media seems to continue to promote these differences between the political parties, which instigates racism and intolerance. Where does it end if we allow ourselves to set aside common respect for one another? Jesus said for us to “do unto others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). Christ-like compassion never gives place to fear, hatred, intolerance, or racism. As believers, we must all be responsible to love one another, whether we agree with them or not.
As a Christian, and as a leader in the work of Teen Challenge, compassion is premier. Compassion defines the person of Christ. Jesus was our supreme example of compassion when He willingly gave His life for us to know freedom from sin. He gave His life that we might have life.
Matthew 9:36-38 says, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus continually modeled compassion for those He saw who were hungry, weary, and in need.
In Matthew 14:13-14, Jesus heard of John the Baptist being beheaded, and he was moved with compassion. John was his friend, and Jesus felt the hurt, pain, and loss of a loved one. His friend had been killed, and he had compassion for him.
The Compassion of Jesus Led Him to Action
- He saw them.
He visually observed the needs of others.
- He taught them.
He taught and provided the information necessary for change.
- He healed them.
He didn’t just talk about them needing healing, he did something about it.
- He met their needs.
He met individual needs, not just the need for healing.
Jesus provided the divine example of compassion, and we are to work daily to make this applicable to our lives in every situation. Thomas Browne said, “By compassion, we make others' misery our own, and so, by relieving them, we relieve ourselves also.”
One of the greatest ways to get beyond the pain of our own past is to be busy giving ourselves to others and/or giving of ourselves for a worthy cause. Giving of ourselves with no hidden agenda or self-serving motive opens the door to true freedom. The sense of fulfillment that comes from giving of one’s self is reward enough. When you capture the essence of the core value of compassion, you will understand the heart of the Lord who gave freely.
Why is Compassion Important?
Let’s take a look at the definition of compassion to see why it is important.
Compassion means to “feel sorrow for the sufferings or trouble of others with the urge to help; to feel pity or deep sympathy.” As an adjective, compassion means “a feeling or showing of compassion; pitying, sympathizing deeply; sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”
Compassion has always been a driving force for Teen Challenge organizations around the world. It’s what drives the action to care for those coming through our doors for help. Without that compassion, the individual may not stay long enough for a transformation to take place.
Embracing Hope, Love, and Reconciliation
Embrace means to “clasp in the arms with affection, to take into the arms, to hug. To cling to and to cherish. To seize eagerly, to accept with cordiality and to welcome.”
That is exactly what is expected from each Teen Challenge employee when a new student walks through the door. We want to embrace them with open arms and with affection. We want to eagerly and cordially greet and welcome each student. I love it when I can say to a new student, “Welcome home.”
Hope suggests grounds for feeling hopeful about the future, the general feeling that something desired will be fulfilled. The verb for hope means “to go for, intend with some possibility of fulfillment, to be optimistic, to trust, desire, and to wish.” It is our hope that God’s greatest good is revealed and seen in the lives of students, as they become a part of the Teen Challenge family and ultimately the family of God.
Love means to “have an unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another.” This is an emotion that people can easily read. When someone genuinely greets you with personal warmth, it’s obvious. The hurting young person or long-time drug addict knows the difference between a person just doing a job and a person who truly cares.
This is how we are to see each student who comes to Teen Challenge for help. We find a way to look beyond the outer person and look into the heart of a person crying out to be understood, to be loved, to be needed and see them as one who is searching for hope and purpose in life. The hard, outer surfaces are a result of life experiences, and the only way to get beyond those barriers is to love them, to see them through the eyes of Jesus as lost sheep who need the loving guidance of a shepherd.
Reconciliation is the action of reconciling. To reconcile means to “patch up, make up, come to terms, to restore to friendship or harmony, to settle, to resolve, to harmonize one’s goals with one’s abilities.”
This is a process that takes time and patience. Assisting a student in patching up, making up coming to terms with, and restoring them in their relationship to God, their families and themselves is what the program of Teen Challenge is all about. The 12 to 15 months of residency gives the Holy Spirit, the staff, and the family the time necessary to heal the years of hurts, misunderstandings, and pain. 2 Corinthians 5:18 says, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
May God help us to embrace Him and, in so doing, embrace others. Remember the value of compassion as we walk out our faith in Christ. Look into the eyes of every student who walks through the doors of TC, and deliver the love of Christ to each of them.
Jerry Nance, PhD
Global Teen Challenge
All scriptures are taken from the New International Version.