Compassion and the Gospel

Recently, my wife and I had the delightful opportunity to attend an evangelistic rally at The Waymark Seventh-day Adventist Church in Boston. Hundreds of members, along with many leaders and pastors from the more than 44 churches in metro Boston, came together to prepare the way for Compassion Boston—a major evangelistic initiative to be held in that city in the Fall of 2016.

Compassion Boston is well named. It reminds me of the fact that compassion is one of the characteristics that stands out in the Gospels when reading about the life of Christ while He lived on planet Earth. As a man, there were times when Jesus experienced great weariness and physical exhaustion from His travels with His disciples and large crowds following Him. And yet, He never shrank from showing an amazing compassion for the lost (Mark 6:34), the sick (Matthew 14:14), and the hungry (Romans 12:20). Indeed, Christ’s example inspires us to reach out to others in compassionate ways.

After all, God has not called us to see through each other, but to see each other through. Because when you dig someone else out of his or her troubles, you find a place to bury your own!

The following are the words of the late Nelson Mandela, the great South African president and humanitarian: “Our human compassion binds us the one to the other—not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.”

Compassion is a vital part of our spirituality. defines compassion as “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” Compassion, then, is not only feeling sorry for someone. It embraces action. You want to do something to assuage the pain and suffering. That’s what Jesus did when He came to this earth. He pursued us, as a shepherd seeks for his lost sheep (Matthew 9:36), to bring us into a right relationship with God through His shed blood on Calvary.

In her classic volume, The Ministry of Healing, p. 143, Ellen White writes: “The true meaning of service includes seeing all people as Christ saw them, created in the image of God with inherent value and worth. It involves making friends with them, ministering to their needs, winning their confidence, and then pointing them heavenwards to Christ, the Redeemer.”

That’s why I believe the Boston evangelistic initiative is well named. It incorporates the ministry of Christ, of bringing hope and healing to a city in need of hope and healing. I invite you to pray for Boston and for the gospel ministry of compassion that will be done there in the new year 2016.

Donald G. King is president of the Atlantic Union Conference and chairman of the Atlantic Union College Board of Trustees.