Being Engaged

“As Jesus landed, He saw a great crowd waiting, and He was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.” Mark 6:34

For my birthday last November, I asked my husband to buy us a membership at the city recreation center gym. Since then, we have been walking on the track 5 or 6 times a week and now we are up to walking about 3.5 miles in the hour we are there. That’s 33 laps around the track, plus 3 or 4 “cool-down” laps. Boring? Not at all. First of all, I’ve got my praise music plugged into my ears, and second, I’m a people watcher. Larry and I both are and we’ve learned who the regulars are at the gym.
There’s the young lady with severe Scoliosis and her friend who walks with her. There’s the retired Marine with his military hair cut, who runs like a man half his age in his jeans and white tee shirt. There’s a lovely black lady with her curly grey hair carrying 5-lb hand weights and who still out walks me. There’s the older gentleman who was born in India and walks a lap backwards. “Always one lap backward every day. Very good for you.” There is the trainer who is every one’s cheerleader whither or not they are her client. Occasionally there is a very handsome young Arabic man who laps us several times running. I always wonder does he know my Jesus, the One True God of his father Abraham?
There are many more, but our favorite of all is Matthew and his mom, Rita. Matthew is a young boy with special needs. He’s non-verbal and looks out at the world through thick glasses. Matthew has a surgical scar that starts somewhere in the back of his head and goes down below the top of his shirt. He walks with a slow awkward gait and some days he’s reluctant to walk at all. His mother has to push him and at times seems to struggle to get him out on the track. I can see the frustration on her face as she works trying to get him up and going. But on the days he’s cooperating and walking willingly, I can also see the joy and love on her face as well.
One day as Larry and I were walking past Matthew and Rita, we slowed down a little to encourage them. Rita beamed a bright smile and said “He’s such a blessing.” A few days later we were leaving about the same time they were and we visited with them for just a few minutes. I told Rita that I’ve been praying for her and Matthew. Her face lit up with at knowing someone cared enough to pray for them. “Oh, thank you! Please do,” she said.
At church yesterday, our pastor preached on “being engaged” with the community around us. Just as Jesus engaged the Samaritan woman at the well, so are we to become engaged with the people around us. God has been showing me so many people and giving me opportunities to engage them. I don’t know all their stories, I don’t have to in order to pray for them. Will I ever have an opportunity to share Jesus with them? I don’t know. All I do know is I have to be willing and to trust God to open the doors.
Compassion equals engagement. Over and over in the Gospels it says Jesus had compassion and every time it says that, it follows with what He did.
“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” Matthew 14:14
“Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.’” Matthew 15:32
“Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.” Matthew 20:34
“Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I am willing; be cleansed’”. Mark 1:41
Having compassion for people is more than just having pity or sympathy. It means being engaged as Jesus was.

Peace and blessings in our Lord Jesus Christ,