After every meal for 56-plus years, I’ve stood behind Phyllis and gently caressed her shoulders with loving thanks for feeding my body and soul. God mated her to me as an answer to prayer; and I’m forever grateful to Him and to Phyllis. When we first met and magnetized in love, that touch ignited a union of amazing and ongoing compassion. Key words are compassion and touch.
What an amazing journey! A first look, a first touch, a first date, a first kiss, marriage and mating. From then till now God has shown us the meaning of compassion that caresses others from a caring heart. When we became one flesh, God blessed us with three sons; and they blessed us with three families; and the families blessed us with eight grandchildren; and from the grandchildren and their new families, we’re blessed with four great-grandchildren.
Seemingly, all these family members who have come from our union have compassion that cares for others and touches others’ lives wonderfully well. Christian compassion cares and touches.
God in Christ models compassion in action. God the Father compassionately gave Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior to save a sinful world. Compassion permeated Jesus’ life and ministry. Matthew 20:34 says, “Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes, and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him.” More often than not when Jesus felt compassion, he touched others: lepers, the lame, the blind, the diseased, the demon-possessed, the dead, the hungry, the outcasts and those crushed under a yoke of legalism. The touch of the Master’s hand resulted in healing, life, eternal life, forgiveness and grace now and forever.
To have compassion means to suffer with to empathize with, to sympathize with and to express such heartfelt feelings in action. Most of the world seems to have trouble learning that we’re saved by God’s gift of grace through faith and not of works (Ephesians 2:8-10). But Christians and non-Christians may miss the message that compassion-produced works provide evidence of a person’s saved condition (see Matthew 25:14-30; James 2:1-26).
Last week compassion attended graduation at a university. One of our grandchildren graduated summa cum laude with honors from a university in another state last week. No, she must not have gotten my academic genes any more than she could inherit grace only God can give. I would do anything to honor a granddaughter, who moved mountains to get us tickets to the ceremony. But, honestly, another graduation? Happily so!
This graduation was different from all others I ever attended. The university president explained we weren’t there to honor the graduates but to honor God and that the esteemed graduates would go out to serve Him. The speaker did his job well and sat down. Then the president got up with a simple invitation to accept Christ as Lord and Savior for anyone there. An altar call at a university graduation? Yep! There was more. Then he said to 350-plus students, “Now, let’s get graduated; and y’all scram.” No hoots, hollers or outbursts or applauses. That university was obviously kind and loving, but its students, graduates and even the unruly crowd were disciplined. As the assistant clearly and perfectly called each name, the graduate moved center stage to the president. No handshakes there. He handed each one a diploma and hugged each graduate at the same time. Big ole football players got a hug; petite little ole girls got a hug. No one left without the happy haptic experience.
I’ve just got two grandchildren left, and they are already accepted into that university or attending it. That school teaches and practices Christian compassion. I saw it in action. My eyes got kind of sweaty as my heart got lifted. I might point out that our students have come from a Christian home.
Christian compassion offers marriage its best chance to last. One of the saddest parts of the New Testament came from our Lord to the church at Ephesus: “Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works: or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (Revelation 2:4-5). What was missing at Ephesus? The compassion that shows up in faith, hope and love. (Compare I Thessalonians 1:3 with Revelation 2:2.) The church was still in Ephesus, but the intimacy was missing. Although I went to Ephesus about 1,900 years after this, I noted that the “unity candle” was long gone; and the historic Ephesus was in ruins. I say that to say a word about marriage.
Weddings are still wonderful, but marriages are having a tough time these days. Even if Christian compassion and first love are at the starting gate, the odds are pretty long on staying the course and enjoying a Golden Wedding Anniversary. Still, doing marriage God’s way is the right way. Though divorce is not the unpardonable sin, lifetime commitment to one’s first love is like a salvation symphony with grace notes that ring the bells of heaven. But many marriages call it quits early now. What happened to “till death do us part?”
Both Christian and non-Christian divorced friends of mine who had strong marriages have shared some things with me. I’m not nosy, and I don’t gossip; but folks I’ve known tend to share with me. What happened, according to those who share, often goes like this: “Well, we just kind of drifted apart. The marriage really had been over a long time before the divorce. We’re still friends, but we decided it was best to part.” Many of those folks have gone on to new marriages that seem to be good — with both mates worshiping God and active in churches. I’m not judging. I’m just sharing about the loss of intimacy or compassion that can occur unless a marriage is nurtured daily in Christ and in loving expressions of mates touching and reaching out to each other.
Now, about that faith, hope and love. True, the greatest of these is love (I Corinthians 13). But there’s also faith and hope. One of the greatest joys in life is to know that God never quits loving us, and He’s always willing to forgive us. God’s compassion is eternal. Now, we have the chance to remember where we’ve fallen from, to repent and do live like we did when we first came to God in Christ. We also can reflect that change of mind and heart by compassionately touching others every day. We can have faith and hope and work back toward first love.
Now, Phyllis and I haven’t arrived. And we can’t brag. God has graced us with every blessing we’ve ever had. True, the little irritations of a long (or short) marriage show up now and again. But we’re going to keep on patiently putting up with each other in love (see Ephesians 4:2, CEV).
However, I do have one confession to make: When Phyllis fixes cornbread, my gentle caressing of her shoulders after a meal tends to get longer and better; and she gets a kiss.
— © 2012 by Johnnie C. Godwin. Write the author at email@example.com.