Love Without Limits – Finding Compassion
How was I supposed to love without limits? My stomach lurched as I silently prayed for God’s strength.
Hospitals are supposed to be sterile, right? What I just walked through looked like a war zone from an old movie. Beds lined up in the ward lacked privacy or cleanliness. Filth coated everything. I had never experienced anything quite like it in all my life.
When Jesus saw the dirty multitudes, it moved Him to compassion. Frankly, it moved me too, but not to compassion, rather towards disgust.
In that moment, I worried that my love had limits.
I Admit It – I Have Limits
An inner desire to pull out my hand sanitizer and find the nearest exit tempted me. What was wrong with me? I tried so hard to be Christ-like, but this? This put me over the edges of my comfort zone. “Welcome to third world health care, little missionary. Are you going to run home and cry? You’re not cut out for this.” Satan targeted my mind with these thoughts. I could barely concentrate enough to pray when asked to word a prayer at the bedside of a patient. All I thought of was the filth of the sheets and what diseases I was contracting. It seems immature and shallow, I know.
The male-only ward for surgical recovery tested my comfort level even further. It took me quite a while to figure out the source of my discomfort. It was fear! Surrounded by half-dressed men with missing limbs, scaly skin, bloody bandages, and leprous-looking spots, I felt scared. I didn’t feel moved in my heart. My stomach was the one doing all the moving. I wanted to show Christ’s love but it was so difficult.
Ashamedly, I cringed behind my smile when the patients reached out to grab my arms and hands. I tiptoed around the beds careful not to touch anything as I handed out tracts. What was wrong with me? Jesus never acted this way. He held no fear of such things. Why did I? The shock of it all was just too much? I hoped no one saw the fear in my eyes.
What Would Jesus Do?
The passage from Matthew 9:36 flooded my mind. “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.”
He visited the sick, the lame, and the diseased. Yet He was not disgusted. Jesus didn’t seek out the nearest well to wash off the dirt. His heart was affected, but not his thoughts. Then why were mine? I wanted to change how I felt because the fear made me ashamed. My desire was to love without limits, to serve with a smile.
I spent the rest of the day thinking what I read about Jesus’ response. How could His compassion be so moved at such filth? His love rose above all that. Jesus knew how to love without limits. He saw us at our worst and still came to die out of love for us.
Jesus chose to focus on what could be rather than on what was. He saw past the grossness of our sin and saw eternity together in heaven. So must I set my eyes on eternity rather than temporary discomfort. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)
How to Love Without Limits
Really it’s simple, once we learn to let go of self. What greater aid than God’s abiding love to help me do so? So how on earth (literally), do I step out of myself and love without limits?
Two steps to help us love without limits:
- Focus on the soul, not the situation.
- Let God be trusted to take care of the rest.
Once my attention was directed to the condition of their heart, not their body, I shared God’s love more effectively. If I were the one laying in that hospital bed, I wouldn’t want someone to shrink away instead of reaching out with good news. Once the situation fades in the background, only the eternal matters. I’m not pretending this is easy to do. We must ask God to help us train our mind to think on things above rather than on what’s crawling on the floor.
You Should Trust God
If we trust God to save souls, can’t He also be trusted to take care of germs? Mabel Williamson, a missionary to China in days gone by, wrote a booklet entitled, Mabel Williamson: Have We No Rights? A Frank Discussion of the “Rights” of Missionaries. In one chapter titled, “The Right to the Ordinary Safeguards of Good Health” she writes the following.
“We certainly ought to be as particular as we can when we are in our own home; but when we are guests, and it’s a question of offending someone—well, I think the Lord looks after those cases! …Surely in cases where adhering strictly to the rules of hygiene would hinder the fulfilling of our commission, we can trust the One Who sent us forth to look after us.”
This is not an endorsement to be dumb about sanitary standards. However, there are certain times when you say a little prayer, take a deep breath and remember to wash up afterward. He knows about the dirt on the plate or the offered hand that wiped a sneeze. I do think that when we leave it in His hands, there is a certain freedom to serve knowing you don’t have to fear what the creepy crawlies might do to you.
Ye Have Done It Unto Me
The real kicker for me was another comforting passage from Matthew again. Chapter 40, verses 35-40 say it all.
“For I was an hungered, and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in. Naked and ye clothed Me: I was sick, and ye visited Me: I was in prison, and ye came unto Me. Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee an hungered, and fed Thee? Or thirsty, and gave Thee drink? When saw we Thee a stranger, and took Thee in? or naked, and clothed Thee? Or when saw we Thee sick, or in prison, and came unto Thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me”
Jesus says to do all things as if you were doing it unto Him.
That will change your perspective! You look differently at the dirty, toothless man who pats you on the arm as you pray over his hospital bed. It changes how you see the disheveled woman begging on the sidewalk. Everything changes!
Do It For the King
When you do it for the King, no sacrifice is too great. When you do it for the King, He notices all your service. He takes note of it and He will take care of any physical “repercussions” that may follow our act of love to a fallen world. Doing it for the King means no task is too small. It brings worth and value to the most mundane, or the filthiest of jobs. What an honor and privilege to get our hands dirty while laboring for the King of all Kings!
About the Author
Hannah and her husband Cameron are currently on deputation, raising support so they can begin full-time missionary work in Mongolia. She juggles the demands of traveling with those of a toddler and keeps a sweet spirit through it all. Hannah has authored two books in addition to her writing for the Submissive Spirit. She also blesses us with her beautiful voice.