For the next few months I am going to walk us through a series of reflections entitled Clothing Ourselves in the Character of Christ. This series will be centering on Colossians 3:12 (NIV) as we focus on one character trait per month.
I am encouraging you to spend time throughout this month, and the following four consecutive months, to reflect upon the character trait that is being highlighted, and to think about how you are exemplifying this character trait in your everyday life.
Be in AWE, be in PRAISE of SLOW. Avoid rushing through this exercise, as you THINK, MEDITATE, and PRAY as to how you can better demonstrate the character traits that are highlighted for us in Colossians 3:12.
This month we are turning our attention to the character trait of compassion.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12, NIV).
Reflection on Compassion:
How easily we are able to be compassionate when we want to be compassionate. When it is a cause that we think is worthy of our time and effort, we as humans often do not have a problem demonstrating compassion, going out of our way to offer up our support. It is when we are called upon to demonstrate compassion during trying times, possibly with a difficult person or a situation that our true character is required to shine through. As Christians, we will reap what we sow. If we sow compassion, we will experience compassion. Clothing ourselves with compassion, we are chosen by His grace to demonstrate compassion in all that we think, say and do. Compassion will then become part of our true nature and belief system.
At one point in my career, I was in a supervisory role, where I had a number of professional employees, as well as para-professional employees that I was responsible for. One of the employees that worked for me was often quite difficult with both myself and others around him. He would often stir up trouble by gossiping and embarrassingly pointing out other people’s faults. He seemed very unhappy and dissatisfied with his life. At times, it was a struggle to demonstrate compassion while interacting with him. He was only part-time and wanted full-time status and he believed that he was “short-changed” by being over-looked when several full-time jobs came up at our site. Thus, he began to look elsewhere for a full-time job. In his actual job, he was excellent, as his skills and abilities in this area were superior. It was his inter-personal skills that were lacking.
One day, I was asked to provide a reference for him. Immediately, I knew that I had two choices. The first choice would be to show compassion and discuss with his potential future employer his excellent qualities, while also discussing where I thought he could be mentored in terms of the need to develop better inter-personal skills. Or, the other choice I had was I could have demonstrated bitterness and resentment and not provided him with a good reference. I decided to choose option number one, provide a good reference as well as discuss potential areas of growth. It was by clothing myself with compassion, seeing him as Christ sees him, that I was free to act out the virtues that make up the character of Christ. Christ expects me to demonstrate these virtuous characters, in both easy and difficult circumstances. If I would have demonstrated bitterness and resentment, this employee would not have seen Christ shine through. Instead, I needed to see the employee through the eyes and heart of Christ and demonstrate compassion when speaking about his skills and abilities. As a Christian I needed to ensure that I was demonstrating the virtues of Christ in the workforce.
Christ said that we are dearly loved by Him. How comforting this is to be secure in knowing that He truly loves us. How many of us know and believe this reality and the power and confidence that it gives us in our lives? Vine’s An Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words states that in certain passages of the King James Version of the Bible, the Greek word dunamis which means “power” is also translated to mean “virtue”. When we demonstrate virtuous behavior through the love of Christ, we have power to combat negative forces. We are empowered through the demonstration of compassion, especially in very difficult circumstances.
It is because Christ dearly loves us that we are able to be compassionate. His love abides in our compassion through His grace. As a result of His unconditional love, we are able to be compassionate, even when we may not want to be. Jesus commands all of us, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44, NIV).
Showing compassion holds an eternal promise, a promise that by clothing yourself in the compassion of Christ you are planting, sowing and harvesting for His eternal kingdom. It is through surrendering your will and your character to Christ that the promise is fulfilled and becomes eternal. Your demonstration of compassion cannot just be external! You need to think eternal! “The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels” (Matthew 13:39, NIV).
Questions to Reflect Upon This Month:
How are you being challenged to demonstrate more compassion? What is holding you back from being more compassionate? Who in your life do you need to demonstrate compassion towards? What will you do to demonstrate compassion?
Make a list of people this month who you can demonstrate compassion towards. Beside each person’s name, write down what you will do to highlight compassion towards these people on your list. At the end of the month review your list and reflect upon the changes that compassion made in your life and in their lives.