When you think of what it takes to be a man, what comes to mind? Toughness, strength, firmness, boldness, and courage are a few terms that probably come to mind. If we are taking our cues from Jesus, Who lived a perfect life as a man, there are quite a few qualities that define His life as God in the flesh. One of these qualities is compassion, yet it is a term that we don't seem to count this characteristic as being one of the terms that defines what a man is. We seem to think that men should be big, bold, and strong (which they should be), as well as coordinated and loving all of the great man-things like sports, hunting, and fighting. There isn't much room for compassion in all of that type of stuff...at least not in today's culture. Maybe that is the problem, though...we're caught up in the culture of this day and age.
This came to mind as I was thinking about my son, Jackson, and how he struggles to fit in with many boys his age (and even some of the men) at church. Jackson is 11 years old and is a smart, funny, thoughtful, and uncoordinated boy. Many of the boys his age are athletically inclined and like the "fun" video games where people are blown up and blasted in extremely violent fashion. Jackson would much rather read a book or play a game with Mario where there isn't blood spewing all over the place...he doesn't really like extreme violence. He can handle the realities of tensions within the world and conflicts that arise...he has read The Lord of the Rings books and watched the movies as well. It is just that he doesn't like to see the excessive violence that is in many games and movies that look too realistic (like real-world people killing each other). That is because it troubles him to see people hurt or in pain. He really has a heart for others and has so much compassion for those who are suffering or in pain. I often find myself challenged to have more compassion for others because of seeing how he reacts to the suffering of others.
Now don't get me wrong...I do want him to be bold, strong, and courageous...but I want him to keep that compassion as well. Jesus was bold, strong, and courageous when He confronted the Pharisees (Mt. 23), Sadducees, and scribes, as well as when he addressed Pilate before His crucifixion. Yet He also had compassion on the people who were like sheep without a shepherd (Mt. 9:36)...He felt a love for the rich young ruler (Mk. 10:21)...He lamented over the state of Jerusalem because they rejected all of God's efforts to call them to Him (Mt. 23:37-39). I want him to be strong in his firm position of standing upon the Word of God and handle the attacks that he will endure with courage and strength, but I want him to respond with compassion for lost people in a lost world who will attack him. I want him to have a depth of sadness for those who are lost and slaves to sin. I certainly do not want him to go try to vanquish the lost because we are called to bear the truth in love. The Word does pierce our flesh (Heb. 4:12), but we are not required to deliver the truth in a harsh manner for Scripture to pierce a hard heart. So I want him to keep his compassion as he stands bold, strong, and courageous as he delivers the Truth.
Compassion is not mutually exclusive of boldness, strength, or courage. Yet somehow in modern culture, we have somehow bought the lie that it is. We have more time for coaching up our boys in athletics or being a big, bold manly man than we do for showing our boys that part of being a Biblical man is having compassion for others. I'm not saying we need to drop sports, hunting, or fighting, but that we need to include and maybe even emphasize compassion as we raise our boys to become men. And maybe that means we need to draw back and develop some more of that compassion ourselves. Let's remember why we're here...to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. God is each of these qualities and much more perfectly. We won't be until we are glorified in His presence (and even then, we will be limited because we're not God), but through the process of sanctification we are supposed to be coming closer and closer to this state. Hopefully we can see that we should have more compassion for others as we are being sanctified...otherwise we and our boys (who will grow up to become men) will be missing out.
The lack of compassion that many of our boys show for one another is really puzzling. It seems there is contempt that is shown towards boys who are not natural athletes and would rather read books than kick or throw a ball. This is one of the saddest things I can imagine because it really is rooted in hard-heartedness and shows a lack of love towards other people. And we must not forget that all people are created in the image of God. I am sure that God is using my son to show me that I need to have more compassion for others. I hope that Christian men will work to develop this same attitude in our boys and we can see compassion make a comeback within the community of Christian men.