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::Devotional:: ‘Compassion For the Long Haul’

July 23, 2009

God is amazing in the ways that He is able to stir the hearts of believers so that they may come together, encourage one another, and determine where God is working around them.  This week I’ve been studying the book of Galatians and digging deeper into Paul’s admonishments to ‘carry one another’s burdens’.  It has been at the forefront of my mind all week and I had a conversation with a close friend who was explaining a stirring within her heart that was very similar to this call of compassion.  She was talking about a compassion that lasts beyond the crises in life.

I’m labeling this concept “Compassion For the Long Haul” and I hope that by explaining it, I may find more of you with hearts that have been stirred in a similar fashion.  As Christians, we care called to be compassionate towards others as Jesus has been compassionate towards us.  We are called to the law of Christ; to love God and to love our neighbor as ourself.  The question is not whether or not we do this but whether or not we do this effectively in the lives of other people.  Is compassion something we show only in the midst of a crisis or will there be times when compassion is needed for the long haul in someone else’s life?

Compassion In A Crisis

When the alarm sounds at the firehouse and the trucks begin racing down the street, we know that help is on the way.  When a house is on fire and someone is trapped inside, we know that a firefighter is the person we need the most compassion from in the midst of that moment.  He is expected to not only be compassionate but potentially heroic as well right?  But what happens when the fires have been put out and the person has been rescued?  We typically don’t expect the firefighter to continue his acts of heroism and compassion in our lives any longer.  In fact, it would probably be a little awkward if we did.  Opening the door each morning to a fireman and his truck ready to become involved in our lives again is not something we would look forward to doing.  We had a crisis and our needs were met and now we are ready to continue on in our lives.

Are we, as Christians, often like a compassionate firefighter?  Are we ready at a moment’s notice to jump in and help someone carry their burden, to be compassionate, to be heroic?  I certainly can’t dismiss the need for an immediate response to meeting someone’s needs as they are in the midst of a crisis.  However, what about their lives after the crisis – are we ready to respond to their new “normal”? 

Compassion For The Long Haul

I believe that because God is invested in a love relationship with me that is real and personal, He wants to display himself through me to others in relationships of the same composition; real and personal.  Sometimes we experience a crisis in or lives that alters the course of our “normal” and puts us on a new course set with a “new normal”.  The implication here is that one event caused a major shift in our life and we are not going to get over it.  In fact, the crisis and resulting change has become a part of who we are in the wake of that event.  Paul wrote to the Galatians:

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  Galatians 6:2

This command is about compassion for the long haul.  The phrase “carry each other’s burdens” is written in the present active imperative form in Greek.

  • Present Tense – continuous action, habitual action, often refers to a lifestyle
  • Active Voice –  the subject is the doer or performer of the action
  • Imperative – command, with present tense often refers to a long-term commitment
  • (from www.preceptaustin.org)

In other words, you and I are the subjects and we are commanded to actively carry one another’s burdens, habitually, through a long-term commitment.  It is ok to be like a firefighter and run from crisis to crisis, but when Paul wrote this command I don’t think that is what he had in mind.  

As Christians we are to be compassionate for the long haul.  Take a few minutes and think about those people around you who have been forever changed because of a crisis that happened in their lives.  Look for people who are living a “new normal” and invest yourselves in a real and personal relationship with them and see if you can help to carry their burden; be compassionate for the long haul.

-Stay Rooted Col 2:7-

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