March 31, 2017
As Christ followers we are called to become more like Christ … to reflect His character in our own. Recently I’ve been looking at God’s compassion for His people. There are so many verses that talk about God having compassion on His people and Jesus reaching out with compassion to those He touched. It is clear that compassion is a big part of how God interacts with us. (You can read more about God’s compassion in the post The Compassionate God.) Now lets turn the page and look at how we are supposed to show compassion to those around us.
Compassion is often defined as a response to the suffering of others that motivates a desire to help them (Compassion – Wikipedia). It is a gut wrenching feeling that helps us understand the feelings and sufferings of another person. It includes both the feelings of empathy and sympathy, but often goes beyond those feelings by prompting us to take action to alleviate the suffering of others.
In Colossians, compassion is listed among the virtues that we must “put on”, implying that compassion does not come naturally. It is something we have to work at.
Colossians 3:12 – Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, (HCSB)
Compassion is often seen in the same sentence or thought process as love.
1 Peter 3:8 – Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.
Philippians 2:1-2 – Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.
It follows that if we are to love as God commands us, we will have compassion on others. In John we are told to open our eyes to the world around us and give to those in need. This passage even says that if we don’t give to those in need when we have the means, then we do not have God’s love in us.
1 John 3:17 – If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but closes his eyes to his need—how can God’s love reside in him?
Jesus also links love and compassion. When He was asked about loving our neighbor he shared a parable of a Samaritan having compassion.
Luke 10:30-35 – Jesus took up the question and said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him up, and fled, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down that road. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion. He went over to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on olive oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him. When I come back I’ll reimburse you for whatever extra you spend.’ (HCSB)
It is interesting to note in the parable that the two people who are supposed to show God’s love to the word, the priest and Levite, had no compassion. While the Samaritan, who was known to have an incomplete view of God, was the one to show compassion.
You would think that the opposite of compassion might be cruelty or harshness, but instead it is indifference. The opposite of compassion – feeling deeply for someone – is not feeling anything at all. In todays world of social media and news stories, it is easy to become cynical and calloused. It is easy to begin to feel nothing for the pain that we see because we see so much of it.
Have you allowed cynicism and skepticism to seep in and make you indifferent to the suffering around you? I know that I have. Let’s let the Word of God transform our hearts so that we can be compassionate to those around us and show others God’s love.