The Cost of Compassion

For nearly a year, the compassion of Jesus has captivated me. More than any other “feeling,” the Gospel writers note that compassion welled up in Jesus, compelling him to action. Jesus

…moved with compassion, stretched out his hand to heal lepers, blind men, and other diseased individuals (touching those considered of least worth by society, those regarded as sinful, dirty, and literally untouchable)
…felt compassion for the widow who had lost her only son and raised him from the dead
(reaching out to those deemed “off limits” to one as dignified as a Jewish rabbi, touching those whose touch jeopardized his own purity)
…looked upon the distressed and downcast – be they Jew or Gentile, inside or outside his “social” circle – through compassion’s lens, feeding them emotionally, physically, and spiritually(offering his presence and provision to people regardless of their social status, regardless of the nature or extent of their neediness, regardless of their feelings and actions toward him)

As beautiful as Jesus’ compassion has become to me, as much as I have prayed to “see” and “feel” and be compelled to action by that same compassion for those around me, the cost of Jesus’ compassion – what acting on compassion cost Jesus – has been my contemplation the last few days.  Among other things, Jesus’ compassion cost

…him his comfort, the chance to meet his own physical and emotional needs at the time his body and mind called out for them
…his agenda, his schedule, allowing the need of the person he encountered to push other things to the bottom, or even off, the to-do list
…his dignity and reputation, putting him at odds with the expectations of his culture, often leaving him misunderstood and maligned
…his “right” to respond and relate to people based on how they treated him, what they thought of him, or what they could give him in return
...his friends something, too. Aligned with Jesus – literally following him wherever he went, being a party to whatever he did – meant that more often than not, the cost of Jesus’ compassion was paid also by his disciples

Compassion…before recently, it seemed like such a small offering. Not anymore. But Jesus freely gave compassion to those he encountered, and Jesus freely gives compassion to me…to you. How can we who follow him withhold compassion from those we encounter? No matter how costly.