In order to continue Jesus' ministry here on earth, we must have the same kind of compassion that he had for people. I believe that we fall short of true compassion because of many reasons. I would say that the stages of compassion are as follows.
1. SYMPATHY - The act or power of sharing the feelings of another. A feeling or an expression of pity or sorrow for the distress of another; compassion or commiseration. Sympathy says in words: "It would be tough to be in that person's shoes."
We can't truly sympathize with our community unless we take the time to observe, interact and learn what people are dealing with. At the very least, we should be able to state what struggles people in our community face in order to get through the day. Most of the time we can't even articulate this due to the fact that we haven't taken the time to learn. Judgment, busyness and self-interest keep us from reaching even this stage.
2. EMPATHY - Direct identification with, understanding of, and vicarious experience of another person's situation, feelings, and motives. Empathy says; "I have imagined what it must be like in that man'’s shoes, and what I'd want someone to do for me if I were in that condition." Empathy = your pain in my heart
Luke 19:41-44, Isaiah 53:3-5
To have empathy for those in our community, we actually have to build a relationship with them. We have to care enough about them as individuals that we begin to feel what they feel. We begin to picture ourselves walking in their shoes and ask what what can be done about their problems. Empathy is difficult, especially when we see ourselves as outside of the community or we haven't built a relationship with the individual. We may have pity on them, but don't really internalize their pain.
3. COMPASSION - Deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.
Matthew 9:36, Luke 6:31, Luke 4:18-19
Christ truly had such compassion that he died in our place. Compassion burns in our gut and won't let us go until we do something about the situation. We can relieve the pain, remedy the situation or at least support the individual in their struggle. For the community, we focus our resources and energy on not only solving a problem or alleviating suffering, but empowering others to meet their own needs, both individually and collectively. Compassion should move us to rally the troops in order to meet the real and felt needs of those that God calls our neighbors (luke 10:29).