Identifying With Humanity
Matthew tells us that Jesus saw the multitudes of people and "felt compassion" for them (Matt. 9:36). The Greek language indicates He was moved intenally, meaning that there was a physical, "gut-level" response. (This is why the KJV uses the term "bowels of compassion.") Jesus' physical body responsed to the emotion He experienced looking at humanity.
As I think about that, I realize that is not the way I feel when I look at the crowds of people going into Wal-Mart, or gathering at a football game. Most of the time, my attitude has been one of complacency rather than compassion. Unlike Jesus, I mentally "distance" myself from most of humanity and feel nothing for them at all. (I know, I know, that as a follower of Christ I am suppposed to care.) Jesus identified with fallen, sinful, weak human beings. But I, who am fallen, sinful and weak, often disassociate from the rest of humanity. Not unlike the Pharisees of Jesus' day, who in their self-righteousness "viewed others with contempt" (Luke 18:9), the "us against them" attitude (which is worse than complacency) at times has taken over.
But God has a way of bringing us to the end of ourselves, and exposing our weaknesses, our fallenness, and our sinfulness to ourselves, and sometimes to others. It is then that I am forced to embrace not only my humanity, but I find myself having compassion for others. My compassion for others grows, as I consider my own condition.
I like this quote from Eugene Debs: "Years ago I recognized my kinship with all living things, and I made up my mind that I was not better than the meanest on the earth. I said then and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it;while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."