“Compassion will cure more sins than condemnation.” – Henry Ward Beecher
Here’s how one person described compassion: “A strong feeling of sympathy and sadness for other people’s suffering or bad fortune that produces a desire to help.”
Compassion is a big deal to God. Obviously.
He looks upon us in our fallen and sinful state, and pours out His compassion upon us through the gospel of Jesus Christ. He cares enough to do something about our plight.
Jesus threw down hard on the Pharisees because they lacked any empathy or concern for others. In Matthew 23 he scorched their ears with these words:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matthew 23:23, ESV)
Jesus also told the parable about the man who had been shown compassion by a powerful king. The man was deeply in debt, yet out of a spirit of compassion, the king chose to clear all his accounts.
We would think that such an act of mercy would greatly impact this man’s life. But as Jesus told his story, the forgiven man came across another man who owed him some pocket change. Rather than show this man the same mercy that was shown to him, the man sought to have the debtor thrown in jail. Jesus commentary on this man’s actions was harsh. He wanted his disciples to learn that such a lack of compassion revealed that the man really didn’t understand what was done for him by the king.
On the flip side, Jesus told a story known as the parable of the Good Samaritan to illustrate what real compassion looks like:
One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”
The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’”
“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”
Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.” (Luke 10:25-37, NLT)
Remember the question the expert in the law asked: WHO’S MY NEIGHBOR?
Jesus turned it all around by challenging the man to be a neighbor, even to those he would rather criticize or condemn!
It’s interesting to think about all the different ways the people in the story related to the man in need:
- To the lawyer, the wounded man was a subject to discuss
- To the thieves, the wounded man was a someone to exploit
- To the religious men, the wounded man was a problem to be avoided
- To the innkeeper, the wounded man was a customer to serve a fee
- But to the Samaritan, the wounded man was a human being worth being cared for and loved
I wonder: how often are we more like the lawyer, or the religious figures, or the innkeeper?