“Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” Luke 6:36

“Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it’s like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.” Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking

Something that has been impactful in my spiritual formation is what I would call the spiritual practice of caring for others: compassion. When the caring that we do moves beyond ideas of sympathy and pity, to empathetically and practically enter into the stories of others and work alongside them to alleviate suffering, we then have a catalyst for our hearts to become more Christlike.

“…though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” Philippians 2:4-7

With the Gospel of Christ comes an invitation to downward mobility, that if we will surrender to it, we experience new depths of our relationship with God. In a teaching that I did on being a People of Compassion (video below), I made the point that as followers of the Way of Jesus Christ, we have the Spirit of the Living God alive in us, and one of the inseparable qualities of that Spirit is a love that sacrifices and puts others first.  I believe that God is 100% devoted to us having Christ formed in us, which means that He is 100% devoted to us embodying His compassion.

Letting go of ourselves to be close to others

One thing about spiritual disciplines, is that many of them create space for us to (by the Grace of God) ‘let go’ of our wants and desires, and surrender to the Lord’s wants and desires: contemplative prayer, fasting, solitude, etc. In the same way, the invitation of compassion is to let go of our desire for our opinions, preferences, and ethnocentricity to dominate how we interact with people, and to embrace the Image of God in others – to listen instead of speak, and to intentionally enact patience and kindness.

In the book Compassion, to which Henri Nouwen was a contributor, the authors wrote:

“The compassion Jesus offers challenges us to give up our fearful clinging and to enter with him into God’s fearless life. In saying be compassionate as your loving God is compassionate, Jesus invites us to be as close to each other as God is to us. He even asks us to love one another with God’s own compassion. A divine compassion is a compassion without the slightest tinge of competition” (Nouwen, Mcneill, Morrison, Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life).

Here is my teaching on being a People of Compassion: