Learning Compassion From the Early Church: New Article by GU's Wayman

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By Carla Morris

A workmate receives crushing news; a friend faces bankruptcy; a neighbor’s baby dies in the delivery room. Too often, anguish leaves us speechless and struggling for a response.

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In times like these, looking back to the early church can help, says Ben Wayman, pastor, author and assistant professor of theology at Greenville University.

From the early church, we learn by example how to come alongside people suffering by sharing their suffering, and so become a community of the cross in the process. 

Shared Suffering: An Unlikely Path to Abundant Life

A new article Wayman authored for this fall’s issue of Illustrated Bible Life (The Foundry Publishing, 2019) delivers these and other valuable insights.

Titled “A History of Christian Compassion,” it reminds us that Jesus, filled with compassion, chose to suffer for others. Members of the early church followed suit. 

To this day, compassion displays the church’s mission. Though the gospel requires we die to a life of comfort and security, it promises “abundant life in an everlasting kingdom.”  

Wayman reveals the profound impact of Christian compassion throughout history, including:

  • Its contribution to “astounding” growth in the church; 
  • Its widespread influence on every aspect of social life; and
  • Its enduring reach over time.

What to Do When We Don’t Know What to Do

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When anguish overwhelms a loved one and renders us speechless, we still can help, says Wayman. He points to John Wesley, who urged believers to simply be present with sufferers. 

Said Wesley, “One great reason why the rich, in general, have so little sympathy for the poor, is because they so seldom visit them.”

“If the church today is to remain a faithful community of compassionate ministry,” writes Wayman, “it must renew its historic determination to ‘suffer with’ others, just as Christ suffered for us.”

The fall issue of Illustrated Bible Life is titled “Experiencing Power: Stories from the Early Church.” Wayman teaches in GU’s Bastian School of Theology, Philosophy, and Ministry.

Learn More

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This story was published on July 22, 2019