Learning to Be Compassionate People Day 2: Recognizing Needs and Taking Action
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4, ESV).
Have you ever been upset or hurting and had someone reach out to you at just the right time? It’s such a meaningful thing, isn’t it? If that’s ever happened to you, it likely made you want to be more like that yourself—someone who cares about others and is aware of their needs. The truth is that when we are living as God intends us to, each of us should be able to recognize the needs of others and, by the help of God, be drawn to show compassion toward them.
Living how God intends us to isn’t a mystery. Based on the Word of God, it’s clearly assumed that, as Christians, we are to act in a certain way; we are to be selfless, others-focused, prayerful, and involved in the lives of those around us. In other words, we are to be like Christ. This applies to every area of our lives: our immediate and extended family, local church, friend group, gym, school, workplace, etc. God knows the spheres in which He’s placed us and the relationships He’s given us. In every situation, He wants us to intentionally pour into others. After all, isn’t that exactly what Jesus did?
Let’s look at what the Bible says about recognizing the needs of others (the context of most of these passages is the local church, which is the community God emphasizes heavily in His Word).
“But God has so composed the body … that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:24-26).
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:12-14).
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:10-18).
There isn’t a secret to being good at recognizing the needs of others; it all comes down to living in obedience to God’s Word. The portion above from Romans makes this particularly clear. This is meant to consume our whole lives because it is the point of our lives: serving God by pouring His love into others—the love He showed to us through Christ.
So how does this happen? No matter the sphere in which you are called to recognize the needs of others (family, local church, school, etc.), the bottom line is this: you have to be there. In fact, one of my favorite quotes of all time captures this concept: “Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God” (Jim Elliot).
This doesn’t mean talking to your spouse only at dinner; it means setting aside time to have intentional conversation so you know what’s on their heart. This doesn’t mean talking to your coworkers only about the projects you’re working on; it means showing them kindness and asking about their lives. This doesn’t mean avoiding relationships with the people at your kid’s school or your gym; it means sharing the gospel with them and asking how you can pray for them. And perhaps most of all, this doesn’t mean going to church when it’s convenient; it means being committed to God’s design for a local church and all the people in it. If you’re not there, you won’t be able to recognize the needs of others, and, sadly, yours won’t be recognized either—this applies to each area of our lives.
Am I saying this is easy? Absolutely not! But when we remember what Christ gave for us, it is worth it. And once we recognize the needs of others, what follows is also simply a matter of obeying God’s Word (see the verses written above). Will I choose myself, or will I put the needs of others above myself? Will I take the extra time to have an intentional conversation with my spouse? Will I invite that family from church over for dinner? Will I take my coworker out to lunch? Will I choose to be like Christ? Will I act in obedience to God’s Word?
I hope we all draw closer to our Savior so we can be given help to recognize the needs of others and show God’s compassion to them.