When a frustrated young Salvation Army officer poured out his angst on William Booth, the founder of the movement, he complained that he had ‘tried everything’ and ‘nothing worked’ in his difficult locality. ‘What can I do?’ he pleaded. After a long pause with his eyes closed, the old servant of God looked at him and said simply, ‘Try tears, officer.’
But how do we get to feel for people as God feels for them? Twice in his parables, and three times in his own ministry, it is said of Jesus, ‘when he saw them he had compassion on them.’ The English word compassion comes from classic sources, and literally means ‘with feeling’. The Greek word in the Gospels actually means ‘with guts’! – that, when you think about it, is exactly where we register our deepest emotions.
When considering David’s brothers as suitable candidates for the throne, Samuel was reminded that ‘humans look on the outside, but the Lord looks on the heart’ (see 1 Samuel 16:7). How we see people will determine how we feel about them. Here are those examples of seeing that resulted in compassion.
- The neighbourless victim on the Jericho road (Luke 10:33; see Luke 10:25-37)
 When the foreigner saw him – beaten, stripped, abandoned, dying – he saw with twenty-twenty vision;
 he experienced gut-felt compassion;
 and showed practical mercy in helpful actions – he went to him, poured oil and wine in his wounds, rode him on his beast, cared for him at a hostelry, and provided for any future needs of the wretched man.
- The shepherdless sheep (Mark 6:34; see Mark 6:30-44)
That’s how Jesus saw the crowd, that to anyone else would have seemed to be in holiday mood. Again, his mercy was very practical:
 he taught them (compare the famous ‘green pastures’ of Psalm 23:1-6);
 he fed them physically, too, from the disciples’ limited resources!
 and he healed their sick ones (compare Isaiah 49:13-16; Psalm 103:13).
In fact, he later fed another crowd as a result of seeing their state (Mark 8:1-10) and because he felt compassion (verse Mark 8:2).
- The husbandless widow bereft of her only son (Luke 7:13; see Luke 7:11-17)
Jesus saw, had compassion and again showed practical mercy –
 raised the young man to life again and gave him back to his mother;
 twice he spoke and twice he touched.
- The fatherless son (Luke 15:20; see Luke 15:11-32)
The father saw the wretchedness of his repentant prodigal son and acted mercifully:
 he ran to him, embraced him, kissed him, fed him, bedecked him in royal robes and celebrated with music, dancing and joyous company.
Lord, enable us, by your grace, to See people’s real state, Sense your heart for them, and Show mercy in appropriately helpful service – teaching, feeding, healing, celebrating.