Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care!
Compassion, from the Latin, meaning “with” and “to suffer” is at the heart of pastoral care and an indispensable part of what it means to be a Christian.
As a pastor, I find it a difficult challenge to allow the suffering of another to open up for me, in a real sense, an encounter with God. Christian ministry reflects a God who in Jesus is not dispassionate, but cares enough to reveal his loving presence in and through human acts of kindness. McLaren notes, “we can experience God in us as we show compassion and we can also experience God in the person who receives our compassion.” We need to know suffering as much as we claim faith for “miracle” healing. We can allow our woundedness to be at once an experience of God as well as a source of healing for others. Pastors, at best, are wounded healers!
Two aspects of compassion bring healing. The first, typically Pentecostal, prayerfully intervenes often in spectacular ways seeking mercy for the sick or justice for the poor who are without life’s basic needs. The second, though passive, is preventative and profoundly pastoral. It is about being there to offer hope to those who suffer. Christlike compassion is the true source of all spiritual charismata and must be central to charismatic praxis: to preach the gospel, pray for the sick, and deal with demonic oppression.
Pentecostal power in and of itself can easily be destructive to genuine faith. But the opposite is true when the Spirit’s healing charismata (1 Cor. 12:8) are accompanied by compassionate care which reflects the Spirit’s fruit or grace (Gal. 5:23). Spiritual gifts and the fruit of the Spirit are interlinked, and the virtue of compassion or practical love should serve as a rudder to direct the proper use and prevent the misuse and abuse of charismata.
Christian compassion possesses an intense empathy for others who suffer and uses spiritual gifts to alleviate, not agitate pain. Pastors ought to exemplify such a vocation. Often, a more powerful remedy for defeating a vice, spiritual, social, or otherwise, is to develop a virtue. Compassion, rooted in agape and the model of Jesus’ ministry, is the overarching virtue in true charismatic ministries, where “super-human” charismata stem out of the grace of compassion. Without the latter, the former is pointless and powerless to create lasting transformation; dangerous wind for a ship without a sail.