Compassion is not something we possess until we demonstrate it to others.
It’s an action that shows we care when others are sad, hurt, or suffering.
Our students might not have experienced compassion towards them, but when they understand how much God loves them, they will share that love with those around them.
Use this youth group lesson on compassion to teach students that when they strive to imitate Christ, they become people of compassion and mercy.
– Nick Diliberto, Ministry to Youth
YOUTH GROUP LESSON ON COMPASSION
Written by Carrie Busch
Bible: Hebrews 4:15-16; John 11:28-36
Bottom Line: When we strive to imitate Christ, we become people of compassion and mercy.
- Optional: Candy for the winning team
OPENING GAME: CARRY ME ALONG
For this game, teams will choose a team member to carry as they complete some challenges.
This will demonstrate the theme of compassion for today’s lesson.
Split the group into teams of 4-5 (one of these team members will be carried by the other students throughout the game).
HOW TO PLAY THE GAME
Have each team choose which team member to carry.
Instruct the students that he/she may not touch the ground at any time, or the team is out of the game.
Create an obstacle course with 3 or 4 challenges that the team must complete together.
You can add more obstacles if you would like.
They can accomplish these challenges however their team determines.
In other words, one team member can hold the other, and the others can work on the challenge.
There are no rules for this – as long as one of the team members is being carried and the challenge gets completed by some or all members of the team.
Whichever team crosses the finish line first is the winner!
Say: Today’s game demonstrated a valuable aspect of being a Christian.
Did you notice how the game focused on accomplishing tasks while carrying a team member?
That’s because I wanted you to see this is a representation of how we should treat others as Christians.
Ask: What do you think it means to be a follower of Christ?
Allow a few responses from students.
Ask: And what do you think the word “Christian” actually means?
Allow a few more responses from students.
Think about the word “Christian.”
We label ourselves as Christians, but do we realize the weight of such a term?
If we claim to be Christians, we must be like Christ.
After all, the name of Jesus is the root of the word!
So, today we’re going to discuss an attribute of Christ that we may often disregard.
What is it?
Compassion is “sympathetic pity and concern for the misfortunes and suffering of others.”
And why should we care?
If we call ourselves Christians, we should care about compassion because it matters to Christ.
Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on this earth and, although he was a strict teacher, he repeatedly modeled a life of compassion and mercy for the unfortunate.
He is our model, so if compassion matters to him, it should matter to us.
Read Hebrews 4:15-16.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
In Jewish tradition, a high priest was one who would be allowed to enter the Holy of Holies to makes sacrifices and ask for forgiveness, on behalf of himself and the people of Israel.
This was allowed only one day of the year: The Day of Atonement.
Today, we don’t need to send a priest into a temple to get forgiveness for our sins because Jesus was the ultimate and final sacrifice when he died on our behalf.
That makes Jesus the high priest that Hebrews 4:15 is referring to!
Let’s take another look at the verses.
Re-read the verses.
Ask: What do they say about our high priest?
Where do we find mercy?
How do these verses describe God’s throne?
Allow a few responses from students after each question.
Now, let’s think back to the definition of compassion: “sympathetic pity and concern for the misfortunes and suffering of others.”
How does Jesus’ role as our high priest show his compassion on us?
Well, our sin condemns us to death.
But instead of letting us die in our sin, Jesus had mercy on us in our weakness.
Through his compassion, those of us who have surrendered our lives to him can sit here today knowing that we will take hold of eternal life with Jesus!
In other words, God’s compassionate plan led to the most amazing event in history:
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ!
Now, here lies the issue.
You’re probably thinking: How can I possibly follow Christ’s example of compassion?
And you would be right to question it.
There’s no way we can show the kind of compassion that Jesus demonstrated to us by giving his life on the cross for us – it was the single greatest act of love and compassion to have ever happened!
However, Christ modeled compassion throughout all of his time in ministry.
We can see how Christ’s loving compassion astounded people and revealed their need for a savior.
We have the same need today.
Let’s look at an account where Christ showed his sympathy for those who suffered.
And let’s see if we can imitate Christ in these simple, loving ways.
Read John 11:28-36.
When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”
And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him.
Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him.
When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there.
Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.
And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”
So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
In this passage, we see a family reacting to the death of their loved one: Lazarus.
Jesus, instead of showing up when Lazarus had just passed away, showed up four days later.
Mary, Lazarus’ sister, tells Jesus that if he just would’ve shown up earlier, Lazarus would not have died.
What an accusation!
But instead of reacting in anger to Mary’s unbelief and lack of trust, Jesus responds with tears.
Deeply moved by his friend’s pain (even though he KNOWS he will raise Lazarus in only a few minutes), he cries tears of sadness and grief along with Mary.
If he’s not sad over the death of Lazarus – a death that he knows he can reverse, then why is he so upset?
The simple answer is that Jesus was moved by compassion.
He could have screamed out, “There’s no need to cry, everyone! I’m about to do a miracle!”
However, he took a moment to grieve alongside this family.
Sometime in the future, you may have an opportunity to grieve alongside someone.
To show someone compassion for his or her pain.
Don’t rush past the moment to try to fix the problem because odds are you won’t be able to.
Show how much you value this person (whether friend or family) to listen to, cry with, hold, or hug a person who is suffering.
Because this is what Jesus did, and as Christians, we need to reflect Christ.
SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
1. Read Mark 3:1-6.
How does Jesus respond differently to the man with a withered hand than the Pharisees in the synagogue?
How was his response compassionate?
2. Read John 8:2-11.
Can you think of a time where you or people you know acted like the Pharisees toward a person who was caught in sin?
If so, discuss how you might have been able to show compassion.
If not, why do you think Jesus’ compassionate response is so shocking?
3. Think about a group or type of people who are typically hated or ignored in society.
How might compassion change their circumstances?
4. Sometimes showing compassion can mean sacrificing time or energy for someone else.
Can you think of a time where you chose yourself over someone else because you didn’t want to make the sacrifice?
Explain to the group, if comfortable.
5. What is your gut reaction when you see people suffering?
Does the type of suffering determine your response? (Ex: poverty, homelessness, death in the family, sickness.)
6. Why is it sometimes difficult to show compassion to others?
7. Is it easier to show compassion to those you know or those you don’t know?
Why do you think that is?
8. What other traits was Jesus famous for revealing through his interactions with others?
9. Think of a time when someone showed you compassion instead of anger or judgment?
Do you remember how that made you feel?
Share with the group if you’re comfortable.
10. Think of a person with whom you’ve not been compassionate, despite their suffering.
As a group, suggest ways to approach that person differently.
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