The sum of Christianity and our reason for existing is spelled out in Matthew 22:37-38. It is not a mystery. Jesus proclaims that everything hangs on loving God with all of our being and loving our neighbors with the same amount of love we have for ourselves. The concept is simple, yet it is easy to get so caught up in the whirlwind of life, school, careers, and future that our love for our Savior waivers and our love for the stranger simply doesn’t exist.
Nevertheless, we are not left without a guide or example. Jesus lived compassion in such a real way that it wasn’t simply something He did. It was something He was. He literally got His hands dirty, touching dirt and dirty people to demonstrate love. He hugged and spoke kindly to little children, affirming and acknowledging them. He crouched down on the floor and, with gentle humbleness, the Creator of life washed the dirt and filth off of the worn and crusty feet of men who wore sandals and walked on dirt roads.
Imagine life with a “savior” who never got dirty or uncomfortable for the sake of others. Imagine a “savior” who didn’t sacrifice or demonstrate a genuine concern and response to the suffering of others. Impossible! Now, imagine a Christian who doesn’t get dirty or uncomfortable, who isn’t sacrificial and compassionate. I’ll be the first to confess—I’ve been there before. But I’ll be the first to admit, that is not who I want to be. I recognize that my Savior has work for me to do while I am on earth, and that what I do is to be done compassionately.
When I was 13, I participated in my first mission trip. It was the first time that I had the experience of bathing by using a bucket to scoop cold water from a barrel and it was the first time I slept in a sleeping bag on a cold floor. But it was also the first time I remember experiencing love and compassion for a stranger. We built a church in a remote part of Mexico during the day and taught children about Jesus in the evenings. This community wanted to worship their Savior under a roof, safe from the elements and we had the means and manpower to make that a reality. The children lived in poverty and were delighted to sing, play, and learn about the Jesus who would always be by their side, regardless of their circumstance.
That mission trip, and the dozen or so that followed, always remind me of the very basics of Jesus’ directive to love God and love our neighbor. Many of us are blessed to be able to travel abroad and share these experiences. Although Jesus did travel to other places to carry out His mission, He always began wherever He was at that moment. He was on his way to heal a sick girl when a sick woman touched His cloak. Jesus stopped in His tracks and addressed her in that moment, compassionately healing her (Luke 8).
We have opportunities to stop where we are in this moment and address the needs of others. In your community, or one nearby, there are people who are suffering. Homeless shelters are nearly always at capacity; mentoring programs (like Big Brother, Big Sister) are always in need of more volunteers; organizations for Veteran Affairs and the USO—who provide services for military members and their families—also need people to help; refugee resettlement programs need community members to help their new neighbors acclimate to their new country. Wherever you look, there is a need to be addressed.
How are you living compassionately? Is compassion a part of your daily routine? If so, continue living and loving others as Jesus did and encourage your friends and loved ones to join you. If you are recognizing that a shift may be necessary in order to align your heart with God’s purpose, pray for guidance and compassion. Find a need and address it. Sometimes you may simply need to be humble and get dirty and just do it.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12