DORA, Ala. (BP) -- At a huge Christian music event, I waited in line to enter a restroom and eventually joined another 20 or so women inside. Above the roar of hand dryers, there was chatter and laughter, but there was also another sound. One woman faced the wall in the far corner and was sobbing uncontrollably.
I don't know how long this had been going on, but I was appalled to see how every woman there was simply ignoring a situation they either didn't know how to handle or didn't want to be become involved in.
I couldn't ignore her. I excused my way through the crowd and went to the lady, gently putting my hand on her shoulder and asking, "Is there anything I can help you with?"
She turned and, between sobs, told me that she was the mother of a family group who was currently on stage and that she'd just received a phone call that her own mother had passed away. Surrounded by professing believers at a Christian event, this woman was dealing with a devastating heartache alone.
Jesus Christ had compassion for the hurting. In Matthew 14:14, He looked at the crowd and "had compassion." Likewise in Mark 6:34. And Matthew 9:36. And Mark 8:2. And in so many other passages. And we're to be like Him.
Scripture clearly teaches us that compassion is a distinguishing characteristic of those who are in Christ Jesus. If an individual believer or an individual church focuses only on self, the compassion of Christ is missing.
If we are to reach a lost and dying world with the Good News of Jesus, we must do so with hearts of compassion. Our job is not solely to comfort and love "the brethren" -- we're to extend Christ's love outside our comfort zones. Beyond our family and friends. Beyond the walls of church buildings.
Jesus never stood at the church door, so to speak, and said, "Y'all come" (even though He was from the Southern Kingdom of Judah). He did, however, tell the church to "Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in" (Luke 14:23).
When I was a kid, an emaciated, clearly abused, dog appeared on our carport during a rainstorm. Trembling, she cowered against the brick wall, as terrified of me as she was of the booming thunder and torrential downpour. How did I get her trust me? I patiently worked my way closer to her as I spoke softly and offered her food and water. I was willing to put in the time it took to get her to trust me.
It took days, but eventually I was able to put out my hand to pet her without her flinching in fear. A couple of weeks later, she actually allowed me to clean and doctor her wounds. Halo and I became the best of friends because I made a conscious effort to get her to trust me, which was when I was able to truly show her compassion.
There are so many hurting, wounded people in the world. And some may want no part of your offer of help. At first, anyway. Relationships, like houses, require building. One piece at a time. Don't sit around waiting to develop compassion because it'll never just happen. You learn compassion through extending it.
Who around you could use a little compassion, like the woman at the Christian concert? Be the hands and feet of Jesus. Patient. Loving. Open. Vulnerable. Willing to meet people on their own level and taking the time needed to nurture a relationship.
Judy Woodward Bates is a speaker, TV personality and author of "Bargainomics: Money Management by the Book." Visit her website at www.Bargainomics.com. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress
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