Seeing With Compassion

By Paul Runnoe, Cru (campus ministry)

Over the past two summers, we’ve had the opportunity to help lead the Milwaukee Inner City Summer Mission with Cru. The experience has been challenging, eye-opening, and very rewarding. 

One of the things that the Lord has continually brought to mind is how Jesus sees people. Matthew 9:36 has been both challenging and convicting for me in ministry and especially during our time in Milwaukee.

 “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

Jesus SAW people and had compassion on them. He allowed himself to become emotionally attached to the people, to feel their hurt and their pain. The word compassion here in the original Greek is splagchnizomai, which means “to be moved in your bowels”, to feel it in your gut. Jesus was deeply moved by how he saw the crowds.

How do I most often see people? How do I see those who don’t know the Lord? Is my initial emotional response to unconsciously judge or look down on? Why would they act that way? Don’t they see how foolish that is? STOP BEING DUMB!!

Or how often do I simply see people as obstacles? Objects impeding me from accomplishing my task. Do I leave room for God-ordained interruptions in my life?

There is a great passage in Ezekiel that goes deeper into this metaphor of God as our shepherd. The passage is really about how Israel’s “shepherds” have failed the people, led them astray, and taken advantage of them. So God intervenes and declares that He will be their Shepherd himself.

“I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest,” declares the Lord GOD. “I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick; but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with judgment.” Ezekiel 34:15-16

“They took my son away from me...” As I stood along the lakefront listening to Lisa’s story, my heart began to ache for her and her son, Robert – a 24-year-old man with autism.

Robert was prone to wandering off. Usually he would end up finding a police officer who would bring him home to his mother. One time, he was not brought home. From what I gathered from Lisa, they put him into full-time care managed by the county. She scrounged up enough money to hire a lawyer to bring him home, but her case was unsuccessful. She became so upset in the courtroom that she was arrested.

As tears streamed down Lisa's face, she expressed her distrust and frustration with a system that is designed to help, but, from her perspective, is more concerned with financial gain.

I believe the Lord desires for us to see harassed and helpless people with empathy... to look people in the eyes and see them as His image-bearers.