“I don’t need anyone to feel sorry for me, all I need is some compassion.” These were the last words I heard from a close friend.

As South Africa experiences the third wave of Covid-19, the challenge is ever present as the number of positive cases and deaths drastically increase each passing day. The Institute for Communicable Diseases reported on 1st July 2021, that the total fatalities in South Africa were 61 029 with 21 584 new cases reported within the last 24 hour period.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been difficult on so many levels. According to LiSijia, et.al (2020:17), the uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic has a direct impact on the physical and mental health of individuals. There has been an increase in substance abuse leading to violence against women as evidenced by the drastic increase in gender-based violence cases according to Fidels, (2020). Unemployment in South Africa increased to 32.6% at the end of the 1st quarter of 2021. As more businesses are closed and jobs are lost the sad reality is that poverty increases, and suffering becomes widespread in South Africa.

It is easy to become numb to these numbers and the continued impact of Covid-19, even though friends and family members are passing away daily. If ever there was a time, it’s now when compassion, love and kindness is deeply needed by humanity.

What is compassion?

The association of suffering with your fellow man generates compassion beyond sympathy into empathy. Empathy is the ability to relate to the suffering of another as if it were your own. Empathy and sympathy have at its core emotion and feeling, however there is no action.

Being compassionate means that we understand the suffering of others and take action about it.

Compassion gets involved and embodies a palpable manifestation of love for those who are suffering. When others dissociate themselves from those who are experiencing pain and suffering, compassion encourages us to act on their behalf. In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), we clearly see the lack of compassion of those who “passed him by.”

Following the example of Jesus Christ

Having a knowledge of the biblical meaning of compassion is important, however, we need to follow the example of Christ.

“People may excite in themselves a glow of compassion, not by toasting their feet at the fire, and saying: “Lord, teach me compassion,” but by going and seeking an object that requires compassion.”

Henry Ward Beecher

As evidenced in the Gospels, we witness the compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ in various instances: healing the lame, the blind, the sick and anyone in need.

“Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12).

Paul calls us as Christians to have a compassionate heart who clothe ourselves with Christ-like attributes.

We should fill ourselves with love and concern for others rather than being selfish. We should be merciful to others in times of need, just as Christ is.

Kindness refers to how we treat others, a characteristic which is valued by God throughout scripture (James 4:6). Believers are called to live in humility so that they are not arrogant and unfair to others. Meekness refers to being gentle rather than being hot headed when approaching others. Patience is a behavioural trait we should always have no matter the situation is.

We should as Christians emulate compassion as Christ is compassionate.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.”                 

2 Corinthians 1:3-5

We witness God’s comfort being highlighted to those who experience suffering. God gives us comfort so that we can also provide comfort to others in times of grief and suffering. We know that God is the ultimate source of comfort who can heal our hearts and help us in times of suffering.

Passion for the broken-hearted

God commands us to have a heart of compassion and help those in need. We cannot profess to be a child of God if we do not follow the word of God. A passion for the broken-hearted and seeking to help and care for others is reflected in the following poem by Emily Dickinson:

If I Can Stop one Heart from Breaking

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Compassion is a trait that each of us should focus on, especially during this pandemic, when there is a cry for help. As a Christian, it is easy to preach compassion, however God calls us to put into action, real compassion from the heart.

In the famous Compassion Hymn by Keith & Kristyn Getty the following lyrics highlight the compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ and the call to Christians to be compassionate to the world:

And with compassion for the hurting,
You reached out Your hand
As the lame ran to meet You
And the dead breathed again;
You saw behind the eyes of sorrow
And shared in our tears,
Heard the sigh of the weary,
Let the children draw near.

What boundless love,
What fathomless grace
You have shown us, O God of compassion!
Each day we live
An offering of praise
As we show to the world Your compassion.

Time to reflect

Below are two stanzas from a poem I wrote entitled, “Love and Compassion”, followed by a few reflective questions. Read slowly and take time with each question, asking the Holy Spirit to speak to you.

Love and Compassion

The propensity to love outweighs life’s challenges.
When all seems lost and hope a farfetched dream
It’s love and compassion that holds you closely.
Flooding your soul and caressing the heart
Burning the midnight candle of hope.

If love and compassion were the
Embodiment of humanity
Life would be beautiful.
With perpetual peace and hope
No matter the odds being slim
You will fight with all you have
Just one more sunrise, just one more smile
.

Search your heart

Now, let us search our hearts and revisit how compassionate we really are. As you reflect on these questions and review what compassion truly means as a Christian, I challenge you to develop a heart of compassion.

How often do we think about being compassionate to someone in need?

Have we gone past the inherent values of humility, love and compassion?

Do we feel as if we are less than ourselves to be compassionate to someone in need?

Do we believe being compassionate and humane is not who we should be?

Can you honestly say you are a child of God when your actions speak otherwise?

Remember, as you touch hearts with compassion you will change the world. Develop a compassionate heart, show you care not simply by your words, but let your actions speak for itself by reaching out a helping hand. Show the love of Christ by being as compassionate to others as Christ is to you.