Matthew 14:14 says, “Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick” (NLT).
Jesus gives us a great example to follow, but it is also an incredible challenge. He had just heard about the death of one of his close friends and he wanted to be alone. But he reacted with compassion. How can you respond with compassion if you do not initially feel compassionate towards someone? I will share an experience with you that might help.
I was serving as Youth Pastor in a small rural church. I had not been there for very long when a conflict developed between one of the other pastors and myself. This was more of a personality conflict. I could see that my philosophy on ministry was different than his. I could also see that this conflict had a negative affect on the rest of the church. My initial reaction to this was not compassion. It was anger.
I was upset that such an insignificant conflict would negatively affect the whole church. That is when I remembered how the Apostle Paul spoke to the Corinthian church about being a part of one body. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul describes the church as a body and all the members are parts of that body. He tells them that when one part of the body is not working properly, it affects the whole body.
This helped me to look at the situation from a different perspective. I saw that the negative affect on the church was not healthy. I thought I was right, but I realized that being right is not important if it is going to hurt the rest of the church. That is when 1 Peter 3:8 hit me between the eyes. It says, “Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.”
There are several scriptures that teach unity within the church. And I realized that I needed to teach unity through my actions. So I decided to set my initial reaction to the side for the sake of the whole church. They did not even know what the conflict was about, but they could see that their pastors were not getting along. I knew what had to be done. And, though I did not want to, I took the steps toward conflict resolution.
I approached my coworker and told him that we needed to figure out how to get along or it would tear the church apart. He agreed with me and admitted that he came up with the same outcome. But he did not see how it would work. He did not want to submit to me and he thought I would not submit to him. I quickly responded that I certainly would submit to him if it meant the church would not suffer. I said, “If it means that we can put this behind us and move forward, I will definitely submit to you!”
What resulted was an excited two-hour discussion of how we would move forward. We laid out a plan for the next three months and we both renewed our passion for ministering to the church and to the community around us. My compassion was for the church. Though my initial reaction was anger, I used compassion to change the outcome. I could have remained angry and the church leaders would probably asked us both to leave. But, through compassion, I was able to overcome my anger and work out my differences with this pastor.
Now, Jesus was not in conflict with the crowd of people who came to see him. But he must have been dealing with conflicting emotions. He wanted to be alone. He wanted solitude. But when he saw how his personal desire to be alone would cause him to neglect all those people who needed his help; his compassion won out. For me, I weighed the balance of being right compared to tearing a church in half. That scale was drastically out of balance. In following Christ’s example, I was able to set aside my desire to be right for the greater good.
It is not easy to set your emotions or desire aside for others, especially when conflict is involved. But remember the comparison to the body and its proper function. If one part is not working properly, it affects the whole body. Think about how much your whole body reacts to neck or back pain. It can throw your whole body into turmoil. Resolve your conflicts—even if it means you need to set your own desires to the side—for the sake of the rest of the body.
In other words, don’t be a pain in the neck.
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