My stove quit working one day many years ago. It quit at the most inopportune moment: when we had a house full of company and I needed to cook. Our company was a missionary family, participants of a missions conference at the church my husband was pastor of. The missionary wife's response to my stove dilemma was surprising to me. While I wrestled with the oven dials and tried to get the burners working, she said, "HA! You're just like a missionary, suffering for Jesus!" At the time, I laughed it off. Later, when I had time to think about her comment, I had to disagree. I was not suffering for Jesus.
Over the years, I have met a number of people with her same notion that certain things are to be considered suffering for Jesus. This presents a problem.
When we consider any hardship of others as "suffering for Jesus" we risk not seeing ourselves as part of the solution to their hardship. Even if someone really is suffering for Jesus, not one of us is in a position to know that for sure. Not one of us is in a position to judge whether or not someone's suffering is spiritually related or not. Our first response must be compassion. When we fail to have compassion for the suffering of others, we fail to be like Jesus. When we dismiss someone's suffering and turn our heads the other way, we are not reflecting Jesus.
Compassion leads us to action. Throughout the Scriptures we see that Jesus, time and time again, was "moved with compassion" for people at every turn. He was moved with compassion for crowds as well as individuals. His first response was always compassion for those who were hurting. He never dismissed their suffering as something to be accepted. He drew people in when his disciples were shooing them away. His compassion was remarkable.
We will have suffering. We will see our fellow Christians suffer. But, if our response is to dismiss their suffering and chalk it up to "suffering for Jesus," we will have failed to be like Jesus ourselves. Our goal can be to relieve the suffering of others. Many avoid this for fear of what it will cost them in time, effort and monetary resources.
Christianity is marked by compassion. The compassion of our living God sets us apart. Our ability to show compassion comes from Him. There is no price on compassion. We can't show compassion, then turn around and demand acknowledgement for that compassion and hold it over people. Compassion is a gift. No strings attached.
Compassion. So rare. So beautiful. So life changing. So desperately needed.
May we be driven by compassion for anyone we see suffering, no matter what it may take from us.