Colossians 3:12 “Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, gentleness and patience.”
This thought to be compassionate is woven throughout my mind and heart. It was learned at a young age as I was the child who came from a single parent family where money was tight. My mom worked very hard to make ends meet. I grew up in a small town where everyone’s family knew each other. A few local business owners knew my mother well and they taught me my first lessons on compassion and kindness. First, it was our family dentist who allowed my mom to pay her bill for services throughout the year by paying a small monthly fee. The second, was the owner of the gas station that allowed my mom to fill up her vehicle each week and pay for the gas over the course of the month. He did the same for any car repairs that might pop up. The agreement for her to keep paying as she could was done on a handshake and her word. I still remember these kind individuals and as a child they were my heroes. They attended church with us and their willingness to help our family were the first seeds planted in my heart of compassion . These individuals had demonstrated care and concern for my family in need. Their acts of kindness had made such a difference in my life and our family. If it were not for these compassionate and kind people in our lives, I am not sure how we would have financially made it.
As I read Colossians 3:12, I see the heart of God calling us to extend compassion and kindness towards those around us every day. We must open our hearts and ask God to reveal the needs of others and then pray about how we might be able to help. As we enter the holiday season it is a wonderful time of year to love others by looking for ways to care for those who are less fortunate then us or those who just need a kind word or action from us that would demonstrate the kind and compassionate heart of God in their lives.
Be ready to respond as God reveals His neat ideas to meet needs and give hope to those without any. God may ask you to give of your money, your time, or most importantly a piece of your heart as you are kind and love people the way He loves us. I want to share a couple powerful examples God used in our family to teach us how to be compassionate to others and the difference it makes.
Years ago when our three oldest daughters were just 1, 2 and 5 years old. We attended a church that put together food baskets over the holiday season for those families who were in need. We were thrilled to get involved as we had started a new tradition in our home for Christmas. Our new tradition was to purposefully sow into the hearts of our children a giving spirit that looked for ways to help those in need. We wanted to teach our girls to be givers, just as God gave us the precious gift of His son.
The opportunity allowed our girls and I to be a part of each step of the process to fill those food baskets. We helped wrap the boxes with gift paper, buy the food items , stuff the boxes , and deliver each box door to door with members of our church family. I will never forget the joy on the face of our five year old as she stood beside our pastor as the first family opened their door and received their unexpected gift box of food. I witnessed firsthand how the kind actions of giving food to those in need impacted the heart of our little girl. It was the spark that ignited a heart of compassion in our daughter. Since that first Christmas our family has embraced this tradition of looking for ways to extend compassion through acts of kindness to those in need. As we have prayed, God has given us the best ideas ever and directed our steps to make the idea a reality. As our girls got a bit older, we changed the way we would give gifts. We would no longer buy gifts for everyone but exchange names. Each family member would buy one gift for their special person but they also must include something handmade, along with a hand written note. We have watched with gratefulness as our girls long to pick the name of their special person and then spend the weeks leading up to Christmas, planning ways to shower their secret Christmas person with love. This tradition has taught our girls the true spirit of Christmas is in the giving, just as God declared in Acts 20:34. It really is more blessed to give then to receive. About eight years into our marriage with three young children, we also asked our extended family to no longer buy us gifts but to donate any money they would have spent on us to a local charity. We did the same and this led to what is now an extended family tradition. In 2007, the entire extended family embraced the tradition to donate to those in need. It has become our way of extending compassion and kindness in a more impactful way as the family has grown to thirty-one and counting. Each Thanksgiving a grandchild’s name is drawn as the trusted person to pray for the specific ways to donate the family Christmas fund. Then each family member donates an amount of money they feel led to give. The money is then sent to the trusted, chosen individual. They have the next 10 months to pray for the clear direction of where the money will be donated for that year. The final action is for the chosen grandchild to send out an email to the entire family sharing where the money was donated. These traditions have helped us to pass on the heart of our God who consistently demonstrates love and compassion to us.
I want to encourage each of you to ask God to help you clothe yourself with compassion and kindness every day. As we approach the holiday season be ready to respond with His heart of compassion and extend His love to those in need. May we be a reflection of His heart to the world around us.