Choosing Compassion Over Indifference Means Connecting

Sometimes it all comes down to how you see things. We have all been confronted with the phrase—“Are you a person who sees the glass as half-empty or half-full?” Very often in the words and phrases we choose we are attempting to frame our perspectives. We may describe problems as challenges or obstacles as opportunities. The way we see things is significant, for what we see often dictates our response.

As Jesus began his public ministry, his first words were: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe the good news.” [Mark 1:14] Perhaps with those words, we imagine that Jesus would be primarily a teacher and preacher, but it doesn’t turn out that way. According to Mark, Jesus began to attract large crowd throughout Galilee because he was a healer. In fact, once he heals Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, his teaching/preaching ministry appears to be permanently sidetracked as the citizens of Capernaum “brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.” [Mark 1:32] They brought them and Jesus healed them long into the evening.

The next morning those first fledgling disciples—Peter and Andrew, James and John—could not find Jesus. The people of Capernaum were back pounding on the door with scores of sick people to be healed. Jesus had retreated to a deserted place to pray. The exasperated disciples, with a crowd on their hands, finally found Jesus and said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” I feel certain they thought this was a good thing. We often equate success with large crowds. But Jesus had a different perspective as he said, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” [Mark 1:18]

Large crowds may give us the impression that things are going well, but Jesus wants to get back to his main objective—proclaiming the kingdom of God. So, with the disciples in tow, he goes throughout Galilee. Yet, Jesus could not escape the crowds. Matthew describes the mission this way: “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news, and curing every disease and every sickness.” [Matthew 9:35] One cannot help but wonder—were the people drawn to Jesus as the healer or as the teacher? It appears he cannot escape the crowd’s desire for him to heal their loved ones and friends who are sick.

Yes, perspective is everything. Jesus could have seen all those sick people as a distraction. It took time to deal with them—time away from preaching the kingdom of God. But Matthew tells us how Jesus reacted to the ever present crowds of people with their sick folks: “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the harvest.” [Matthew 9:36-38] Jesus responded with compassion, and he realized more hands were needed to meet the needs pressing upon him.

For many people today, it is hard to be hopeful. They see what is happening in our world, and they despair. They see problems and troubles too deep and ingrained to successfully confront. Inspired by their despair, they throw up their hands in resignation. From their perspective, the world is going to hell in a handbasket, and there is nothing they can do about it. Yet, I wonder what we might be inspired to do if we had compassion on people and their troubles because we saw them as harassed by the randomness of life and helpless in the face of the challenges of life?

I am convinced that compassion may inspire creative responses to the challenges people face today. Yet, if we go it alone, we soon suffer from compassion fatigue. The problems and troubles of our world require many people creatively responding not to problems and troubles but to people who are like a sheep without a shepherd. We may choose compassion over despair and see problems as opportunities to engage people at the place of their greatest hurt or need. But first we must connect with people. We must learn their names and listen to their stories. We must seek to see their world from their perspective so we may understand. We must pray for the courage and creativity to respond to the challenges that threaten the lives and hopes of so many people. But most of all we must do something! There is a time when action is demanded. We cannot merely be hearers of God’s words.

What is the least we can do? We can be present. We can be present with bread for the hungry, water for the thirsty, clothes for the naked, care for the sick, friendship for the lonely, and kindness for the prisoner. With these things, we connect with our neighbors and we listen to the stories of their lives. We suffer with our friends, and we offer hope. We choose compassion over indifference, and the choice of compassion makes all the difference in the world. Just ask Jesus!


Jamie Broome

Jamie Broome began serving Immanuel in 1993. He previously served First Baptist Church in Midway, Kentucky for ten years. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Carson Newman University, where he met his wife, Rita, and his Master of Divinity from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, where he also did a Th.M. and doctoral work in church history. He is a native of South Carolina, and the Broomes have two sons, Chip and Rusty.