Psalm 103:8 tells us,

“The Lord is compassionate and gracious; slow to anger, abounding in love.”

We can all agree that we’re thankful that God is compassionate, but what does that mean? Compassion is an understanding of others’ distress combined with a longing to alleviate it. God’s compassion means that he doesn’t just see our trouble, but he also seeks to put things right. We see this reality most clearly through Jesus, whose life mission was to restore everything that had gone wrong and caused us pain.

As the people of God, our mission is to manifest God’s character to the world around us. This includes evidencing his compassion towards others. As much as we would like for God to simply make us into compassionate people tomorrow, it doesn’t quite work that way. Like other evidences of the Spirit, we partner with God in receiving God’s compassionate heart towards others as we place ourselves in positions to practice it.

Here are three things you can do to develop a compassionate heart:

1 // Invite Other Perspectives

In our world today, it’s easy to insulate ourselves in an echo chamber of opinions. Our neighborhoods are becoming more homogenous and it’s easy to “unfollow” any opinions you disagree with. If your neighbors, coworkers, and friends all look, think, and believe just like you do, it will be difficult to develop an understanding and empathy for others who are unlike you. In a truly countercultural endeavor, invite others who have a different perspective than you do to help you practice compassion.

2 // Listen Well

Once you’ve invited others to share their perspective with you, listen well. Compassion can come in may forms, but it doesn’t typically accompany a lot of words. Especially if you disagree with what someone is expressing, follow the Lord’s example by being slow to anger. Make it your goal to listen well, instead of proving a point or making sure your opinion is expressed.

3 // Get Involved

Maybe as you’ve read this you’ve realized, “I don’t have anyone in my life that’s different than me.” Your first step is to intentionally involved yourself in a place where people are different than you. Serve families or single moms to better understand the struggles parents can face. Lead a bible study of college students, sharing your wisdom and hearing what it’s like to be a student today. Get involved at the Life Center and make friends with the elderly and underserved. By getting involved in other’s lives, you’re being incarnational like Jesus—not offering sympathies from far off, but moving into others lives, developing relationships, and serving them.

Your job isn’t to try and manifest compassion with all your effort, but to create an environment for God to develop a more tender heart in you. Think of these three ways as a greenhouse for growing compassion; circumstances that are just right for your compassion to develop and to flourish.

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