How We Live Compassionately
In His goodness, God has given most people, believers and unbelievers alike, some capacity for sympathy. However, there is a fundamental difference in a Christian, since a Christian’s compassion is motivated and modeled for him by Christ and is empowered by His Spirit in him. There are at least four biblical principles behind living compassionately as Christ did.
Recognize the Biblical purpose of affliction
All afflictions are a consequence of our sin. The world says we should have compassion because suffering people deserve better, but what does the human race deserve? Nothing but death! We have compassion because we all deserve to be mourning, suffering from hunger, grievously ill, and facing death itself. Many times in the gospels, Jesus was “moved with compassion” and healed the sick and fed the hungry. The word used for compassion is far deeper than showing mercy because someone deserves a better life; rather, Jesus was moved by His deep love and pity for those burdened by the consequences of sin. We must have unconditional compassion since we are all under the same condemnation, else we have elevated our self to be God, able to judge whether someone deserves that compassion.
Forgiven to forgive
Realizing what Christ has done for us, we must extend compassion indiscriminately. When we understand the great love wherewith He loved us, that while we were yet sinners He gave His life for us, we realize it is only by His grace we sinners can be saved. Jesus’ parable in Matthew 18 about the unforgiving servant illustrates beautifully how the lord who was moved with compassion forgave the servant the equivalent of a life-time of wealth, but the same servant had no compassion and refused to forgive a fellow servant the equivalent of a cup of coffee. We who have been forgiven mountains of debts of sin must be forgiving. We show compassion because such great compassion has been shown to us.
See the reality and end of unbelief
The reality of unbelief motivates us to compassionately share the healing remedy for sin. Jesus “was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). He wept over Jerusalem and the hardness of their hearts. Jude tells us to have compassion on those who doubt. Faith and repentance are gifts from God, but He uses compassionate people as His tools. We compassionately bring God’s Word and His gospel promises as the means for God to give faith, restore dead souls, and deliver slaves of Satan who are on the brink of hell. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. This must be the trademark of our Christian living: compassionately showing others our great need for Christ, who is the only prescription for comfort in time and a glorious eternity.
Rely on the Holy Spirit
Liberalism says we are good people who have the innate capacity to show compassion, but Scripture tells us by nature we are selfish people, and selfish people cannot truly show compassion. We desperately need the Holy Spirit to show compassion. We need to pray for grace to sacrificially show true compassion. We need to pray for our eyes to be opened for opportunities for compassion. We need to hear the exhortations of the Spirit in His Word (1 Pet. 3:8), “have compassion one of another.” William Gouge teaches us the beauty of love and compassion by showing us the excellence of love over faith and hope when he says that faith and hope are as hands clasped, holding fast; but “love is as a hand opened, dispersing what it has to the good of others.” 1