Since I first shared how the Lord was dealing with me about my tendency to intimidate others, I have been praying for a soft heart and greater compassion towards others. More recently however I sensed my prayers were being directed away from this focus to Jesus’ own experience of life.
What Jesus Saw
Compassion is the most common emotion attributed to Christ in the Gospels and a sensation of which Jesus was intensely aware, ““I have compassion”” (Mark 8:2). His compassion flowed out in teaching, miracles and healing (Mark 6:34; Matt 14:14; 25-32; Luke 7:11-17). Such responses to suffering were not however “humanitarian”, but totally centred on his relationship with God. In the sickness, poverty and demonisation of those around him he saw the power of evil at work disfiguring and destroying the created image of his loving Father. Pain and grief cause by sickness, conflict, injustice and death are common human experiences, but for Jesus it was the presence of evil at the root of all suffering that cut into his heart like a sword. The destructive power of evil had to be countered by the loving presence of the rule of God.
The Old Testament writers struggled with the notion of a holy God who seems to be passive in the face of wickedness, but in Christ God reveals himself as a Father wholly sensitive to the suffering caused by evil and totally committed to its annihilation. The power of the kingdom of God was released in Jesus against the destitution caused by evil powers because Christ could not bear to see evil triumph over the children God created. This throws new light on my own lack of compassion.
Since I rarely see evil as Jesus did, I am rarely moved with compassionate power as Jesus was. The difference between us and Jesus is ‘ME’ ; Jesus saw what God saw, heard what God heard and felt what God felt because his eyes were never on himself. In his deepest will he was from the beginning a crucified self (1 Pet 1:20; Rev 13:8). My lack of compassion is due to the failure of my heart to see/hear/feel as Jesus. I am not “pure in heart” (Matt 5:8).
Seeing as Jesus
Life in Christ is much more radical than “What would Jesus do?”; it is a matter of “How does Jesus want to express himself through me?” “Christ has no body but yours, No hands, no feet on earth but yours, Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world.” (Theresa of Avila)
If our eyes are the vehicle for the compassion of Christ, our hearts need to be enlightened by the Spirit (Eph 1:18) to see the horrible power of evil in all the suffering of this world. My prayer is, “Father, purify my eyes so that I might see what you see and hear what you hear.” Such purification involves the death of the old self, i.e. ‘ME’ . “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Col 3:5). Yet there is a deeper reality at work in us which must be at the centre of our transformation.
In the search for a more compassionate heart it is natural to pray that we will see, hear and live in a way that is more Christ-like, but this is exactly where I felt the Spirit was directing me away from my own impulses. There is already a crucified ‘ME’ united with Jesus as part of the great mystery of the gospel. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live but Christ…” (Gal 2:19 cf. 5:24; Rom 6:6). The compassionate heart of Jesus already dwells in ‘ME’ in a way that is far more intimate than asking, “What Would Jesus Do?” if this is true why does the inner ‘ME’ so often pray and act as if Christ is not at the centre of our life (Col 3:3). What is it that will help us recognise and release the Jesus within?
I believe there inside of every true believer there is a unique quality of experience that testifies to the Lord’s presence and which is to be the hub of all our actions for Christ’s sake. I find in myself many times over a great desire to grow, to give and to serve Jesus (2 Cor 5:14); the only possible source of this holy desire is Christ in me (cf. Rom 7:18). When faith responds to this indwelling presence (Eph 3:17) Jesus’ life will certainly be manifested through my life; and this must include his compassion. There is a trigger to this however.
Seeing Jesus Everywhere
As I walked past a road worker recently he greeted me with a typical, “G’day mate.” Strangely, I could sense that the Father sees Jesus in this man; for whatever is truly human, from simple friendliness to costly sacrifice comes from the image of the Word in us all (Heb 1:3). Nothing can alter the fact that Jesus is at the hub of everything, but people in our society don’t believe in God because they have lost sight of God’s humanity.
The Word who created the world and now lives in us is as fully human as he is divine, so that to pray “Flesh of God be real to me” means to ask that the identity of Jesus, crucified, risen and glorified as a man in whom the fullness of God resides, may appear even through ‘ME’ (Col 2:9-10). The great paradox of the gospel is that God can only appear alive in the flesh of our own mortal humanity (2 Cor 4:10); but that is just how humanly visible he wants to makes himself for all who are lost. The all compassionate Father (2 Cor 1:3) does hear the cry of every person in every place, but we are the agency of his response.
As I prayed recently, “Jesus, come and heal my pride.”, I could see 2 figures in my mind, Jesus and ‘ME’, but sadly the ‘ME’ was immensely larger than the Lord. This led me to pray, “Crucify this ego Lord”, and I had a profound sense that what I was asking for was a merciful crucifixion (cf. 2 Cor 12:7). Jesus is the merciful High Priest (Heb 2:17) who continually puts to death a life which has no future, i.e. ‘ME’, it is he alone who delivers us from an abstract and disembodied Christianity that obscures our hearts from seeing Christ inside of us and blocks the world seeing and hearing the compassionate Father through us. No one can love what they do not see and cannot hear. A lasting spiritual resurgence in our land awaits a renewed heart with a powerful sense of the destructive power of evil at the root of all suffering. Out of this fullness will flow a compassion that will enable Australians to once again see and hear God’s very human love in the face of Jesus Christ.
 “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?” (Habakkuk 1:13 ESV)