As I looked up from my computer, I saw two young women perhaps 16 or 17 years old standing just outside a mall coffee shop. I had the perfect view of them from the chair I was sitting in. They had decided to take a selfie. They came in close together. The one with the phone extended her arm out. They tilted their heads and flashed a big smile. As soon as the picture was taken they both leaned into the phone to see the results. It was decided immediately that another picture should be taken. So again, they came in close together. The one with the phone extended her arm out; they tilted their heads and flashed a big smile. This happened three more times before they were both satisfied. Each time flashing a big smile and then the second after the picture was taken their smiles disappeared. It was rather bizarre.
Perhaps what was even more bizarre was that in the midst of their photo session a young child slipped and fell not far from where they were standing. The girls stopped to look. The one with the phone even took a picture of the child struggling to get up. They could have helped the young child but instead the two girls looked at each other and laughed. The photo shoot resumed.
I was entranced in this drama playing out in front of me. I wondered, does being so selfie-obsessed make us less compassionate to the needs of others?
The word compassion has its linguistic roots in the Latin: com (with) and pati (suffering).
The Greek word for compassion isσπλαγχνίζομαι (splagchnizomai) which means to have pity on, to be moved to action.
Practically speaking, compassion is an action.
When we are on Facebook or Instagram and we see that someone is going through a difficult time we are likely to – Click! Click! Click! They’re going through a hard time, so if we are on Facebook we “like” that. Emotionally, it’s hard to “like” something bad, and yet that is what we do because that’s how we do it. Right?
But here’s the thing: caring is not clicking. Caring is acting. It’s actually being involved to make a difference.
Caring is not “liking” a post, but it’s loving a person. It’s being moved from the depths of your soul to get outside of yourself to get involved in the life of someone else.
If you look to the Gospels at the life of Jesus, any time you read, “Jesus was moved with compassion,” you will see a corresponding action.
For example, Mark 1: 40-41:
A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!”
In Matthew 14:14, Jesus had left in a boat to a remote area to be alone, but when Jesus landed we read that:
“Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick”
He didn’t say, “I’ll pray for you.” He felt for them and, therefore, He was moved to action.
Another example is found in Matthew 20: 34, when some blind men were crying out to Jesus.
“Jesus felt sorry for them and touched their eyes. Instantly they could see!”
Jesus felt compassion. Therefore, He acted.
All these examples of Christ’s compassion have two things in common.
First, Jesus notices the people around Him. This tells us that compassion is only possible when we are attuned to others. If we’re absorbed in our own feelings, problems, worries and desires, we will overlook the needs of those God puts in our path and ignore the opportunity to help them.
Second, Jesus listens and then responds to people, instead of reacting to them.
I believe this is true, the more we obsess over social media – “Did they like my picture? Did they like my selfie?” — the less we care about other people. It certainly looked that way from my vantage point in the coffee shop.
I also believe that the more I obsess about Jesus – want to know Him, serve Him, get close to Him – the less I care about me and (strangely) the more I care about other people.
What do you think?
Today, as you to reflect on this question ask yourself this: When is the last time you’ve given a whole day, or maybe even a weekend, to serve somebody else?
Compassion demands action.
Join us this Sunday as we conclude our five part series called #Selfie. Let's together discover how we can faithfully follow Jesus in a world focused on self(ies). And bring a friend!!!