Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience – Col. 3:12
I’m just going to go ahead and tell you that mercy is not my spiritual gift. Never has been. I’ve taken spiritual gift inventories before, and I’m telling you, those mercy scores are low.
What I’m saying is that on a scale of Judge Judy to Mother Teresa, I’m somewhere around Madea.
This lack of compassion has been illuminated to me over the past 20+ years that I have worked with teenagers. For example, when a young girl is upset over a breakup with her boyfriend that she had for the last 2 weeks, I typically have to run through a whole Rolodex of thoughts internally before I land on an appropriate response. When a baseball player worries over his strained hamstring in prayer request time, I have to feign interest.
I mean, come on. The suffering people endured and wrote about in the Bible was stuff like getting big rocks thrown at your head or being put in prison for talking about Jesus. There are millions of modern-day slaves and people starving in Africa and stuff, and I’m supposed to pray about your wisdom tooth extraction?
We judge others suffering (or lack of it) by comparison, don’t we? If my grandmother had a stroke, then your grandmother’s hip replacement surgery really isn’t that big of a deal. If my friend lost his job and was without work for 6 months, then your anxiety over a possible pay cut seems kind of self-absorbed. If I consider the problems of people around the world, then you and your eating out, Louis Vuitton purse with an iPhone 5 in it, 2-car garage, Netflix-lovin’ self are gonna have a hard time coming up with any real kind of suffering.
But that’s where I’m wrong.
Certainly we are called to encourage and exhort one another to not be overcome by the struggles we face. If we were to let each other sink at every difficult life experience, we’d be a mess. We should expect one another to bear up under the weight of trials, and to grow in our faith and understanding of suffering as we do.
But it’s also true that there are many kinds of suffering and varying stages of spiritual maturity in which they are viewed. So it’s not our job to judge what counts as suffering, and what does not.
It isn’t my job to decide what people or problems I should care about; it’s my job simply to care.
When Paul wrote “Bear one another’s burdens” in Gal. 6:2, he was referring specifically to the spiritual weight felt by someone who had been caught in sin. But does that mean we are excused from applying the same principle to physical and emotional burdens? Of course, not.
Paul’s subject in this passage should cause some introspection. His instruction wasn’t directed at the one who had messed up; it was aimed at those of us who might shrug it off as bothersome or unimportant.
The point? No Christ-follower is excused in any way from caring about the burdens of others. Col. 3:12 is not a suggestion; it is a command. Since I have died and my life is now hidden with Christ (v. 3), I must put on heartfelt compassion…no matter what my spiritual gift may or may not be.