If we pay attention, we notice that most of Jesus' ministry was about being with people. Yes, He was a great teacher and He performed some incredible miracles, but much of what Jesus did was about simply being with people.
Jesus allowed Himself to be moved by the lives of the people He interacted with. The lives of His disciples. The lives of His friends. The lives of those in the crowds around Him. Compassion flows from Him as He is with these people.
Jesus was Present with His Friends
One of my favourite examples from Jesus' life on this is how He responded when He saw Mary and Martha after Lazarus had died. John 11:17-37 records this. Even though Jesus already knew He was going to raise Lazarus back to life, He will chose to enter into Mary and Martha's pain with them first.
John 11:35 simply records these words, "Jesus wept." Just a few verses before that, we read that Jesus "was deeply moved in spirit," (verse 33) when He saw Mary and Martha. Before He performed His miracle, He felt their pain. He came alongside them and was with them in their pain. Jesus was simply present with them.
Frederick Buechner describes this compassion this way:
"Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else's skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too."
This is what Jesus with in John 11 with Mary and Martha. He entered into their pain and was with them in. And, after He had done that, He raised Lazarus from the dead.
This account in Scripture is just one example of Jesus being present with people in the midst of their pain and then their joy. It was Jesus' lifestyle.
And as His followers, we are called to live this way as well. To be present with people in the midst of their pain and their joy. Being present doesn't mean we come in as someone with all the answers, it means we are simply with people in the midst of what is going on. We sit with them, listen to them, cry with them, laugh with them, and celebrate with them.
We often find it easier to laugh and celebrate with people. It's more comfortable. It's the part of life we prefer.
We tend to shy away from the pain of others, even though we notice it all around us. It's uncomfortable. If we're trying to avoid it in our lives, why would we enter into it in someone else's life?
But, if we're going to follow Jesus' example of really being present with people, we can't ignore the pain. In fact, I've learned that we celebrate the joy in people's lives more when we've also noticed and been present in the pain of people's lives. "Noticing pain is a path to noticing love." (Tad Dunne).
Being present with people. Having compassion for them. It's what we're called to as followers of Christ. It isn't easy, but it is the example Jesus set for us.