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When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:36-38

One of my favorite things to do, when I have time, is to people watch. I watch parents interacting with children, couples walking together hand in hand, and groups of friends enjoying each other’s company. Some are happy, some look sad or angry, some look tired or overwhelmed… It’s almost comical in a way how most people look anything but joyful during the ‘holiday shopping season’!

As I look at the variety of people passing my vantage point I wonder what their story is. For some, it seems pretty obvious that life is tough at that point; others seem happy and engaged in the lives of others. Of course, I can’t really know what’s going on and I’m certainly wise enough not to go and ask. There have been times though that I’ve even prayed for them. Even though I don’t know them, and they don’t know me or that I’ve said a prayer, God loves them and knows their deepest most intimate thoughts.

Jesus people watched too. The Matthew passage says he watched the crowd. He saw those who were tired, those who felt like life was much more than they could bear, those who were ready to give up. The advantage He had of course is that He could look on the inside. His observations, unlike mine, were based on fact, not opinion.

If Jesus were to go to a store, rather than seeing a crabby clerk, He’d see a mom whose small child is home sick. She’d much rather be home with him but bills have to be paid. When His server at the restaurant was giving Him lousy service, He didn’t see ineptness, He saw someone who was struggling with a broken relationship. He didn’t see an angry, weirdly dressed teenager; He saw a pearl in the making who was just trying to say “Will someone notice me for who I am?”

Jesus didn’t just see people. Jesus saw souls who, right or wrong, were doing what they could to survive in a world that seemed stacked against them. I wonder how our communities would be different if we saw people the way Jesus does? How impatient would we be with those who cut us off on the highway, seem rude to us in the shops we visit or act out in ways that are offensive to us.

We don’t have the advantage of looking inside a person to see why they are the way they are. We do have the opportunity to show them the love and compassion Jesus expressed that day. We can show patience and understanding. We can encourage physically and emotionally. We can do many small things to show the immensity of Christ’s love to others. Start today. Start at home, while you are shopping, working or at play. Wherever you are, where ever you go, there are hurting people who need to know Jesus loves and forgives.

PRAYER: Father, there are so many times I go about my day without noticing or being affected by the pain of those around me. I ask that you would forgive me for my lack of compassion. Help me to see others as you would and show them Your love and compassion so that they can be encouraged along the way. I ask this not only for myself, but for Your church as well. May we make a difference in our own corner of the world today. In Your name I pray, Amen.

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