In 1965, Jackie DeShannon sang, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love; it’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. What the world needs now is love, sweet love; no not just for some but for everyone.”
I agree with Jackie (or with the song writers Hal David and Burt Bacharach), but I would suggest a slight change in the wording—not to make it more singable but to make it more applicable: What the world needs now is compassion, true compassion; no not just for some but for everyone.
Compassion means, literally, to feel with another person, or to share someone’s passion or pain. It is the nature of compassion to step beyond the supposed comfort of self-centeredness to share in the sorrows of another. Kris Vallotton puts it this way: “You can sacrifice and not love, but you cannot love and not sacrifice.”
Compassion—genuine care—always involves at least some level of coming alongside of another and sharing the pain of another.
The pictorial Chinese language has a term for the kind of love that shares the agony of another. Philip Yancey and Dr. Paul Brand explain, “In the character that expresses the highest kind of love, symbols for love and pain are brushed on top of each other to form a world like ‘pain-love.’ Thus a mother ‘pain-loves’ her child. She pours out her whole being on the child’s behalf. In essence God showed pain-love to creation by emptying Himself and joining us in the Incarnation.”
What the world needs now is compassion, true compassion. What the world needs now is more people willing to come alongside another to share the hurts and struggles of another.
In his letter to the church in Philippi, the apostle Paul wrote something that I scratched my head over for years…until I began to understand that the nature of compassion is to share in the sorrow and pain of another. He wrote, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.”
I could understand the desire to know Christ and the power of His resurrection, but who would want to join in the sufferings that Jesus went through?
Paul himself was certainly no fan of suffering. In his letter to the Corinthians he points out that he prayed repeatedly for God to take away from him a “thorn” in his flesh.
But if suffering is part of the nature of love, if you cannot love without sacrificing, then suffering is worth it because love is worth it!
Mother Teresa once commented, “The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for and deserted by everybody. The greatest evil is the lack of love and charity.”
It’s true: What the world needs now is compassion, true compassion; it’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. What the world needs now is compassion, true compassion; no not just for some but for everyone.■
—Tom Tripp is the Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Colusa.