“How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.” George Washington Carver
“Compassion will cure more sins than condemnation.” Henry Ward Beecher
“If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.” William Wilberforce
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3
Compassion is a word that gets thrown around a great deal but is seldom understood. If you look up the word in the dictionary it means, pity, sympathy, empathy, concern, solicitude, tenderness, mercy, leniency, tolerance and kindness. But the root of the word has the idea of suffering with. True compassion isn’t simply having concern or empathy with someone who is facing difficulty or lives in a third world country. Compassion is recognizing the suffering of others and then taking action to do something about it.
William Wilberforce was one of the great men of England who spent his fortune, gave his prestige and political power to seeing slavery removed within England. It is said that when he died they had to borrow a decent shirt to bury him in as he had given everything for his cause.
What are you compassionate about? What drives you to get up every morning and go about your business? What are you willing to give our all for?
As Christians we look at the world around us and believe that soon this system will come to an abrupt stop. The Kingdom of God will arrive in fullness and the Age to Come that has been inaugurated with the death and resurrection of Jesus will climax with the return of Christ. In light of that fact, and the reality of our call to be followers of Jesus, in the here and now, what part does compassion play in our lives?
I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty or shame anyone. Like I have always said, I write these posts primarily to myself. These are questions I ask myself on my journey with Jesus. In 2 Kings 13:23 we read, “But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion and showed concern for them because of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To this day He has been unwilling to destroy them or banish them from His presence.”
Israel had lost a number of cities to the Syrians but after the death of the Syrian king God gave Israel victory over the Syrians and returned the captured cities to Israel. These were hard times for Israel and very rebellious times as well. Yet, the Lord was, (a) gracious to them, (b) had compassion, (c) showed concern for them, (d) was unwilling to destroy them, (e) or banish them from His presence.
If you really want to know God this text spells out who He is and what compassion really means in a Biblical sense. You can have absolute assurance of God’s love and security because, just like Israel, we are rebellious but God is gracious and compassionate to us. When He says He is compassionate it means that He recognizes our suffering, pain, hurt, and longs to bring us relief and support.
In Nehemiah 9:19 we read the text, “Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the wilderness. By day the pillar of cloud did not fail to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take.”
The pillar of cloud and pillar of fire guided the children of Israel’s path throughout their wilderness journey. God never abandoned them in spite of the golden calf, grumbling, open rebellion, refusal to enter the promised land, constant wanting to go back into slavery, and lack of gratitude or thanksgiving for His mercy and love. In spite of all this God just kept on loving them, leading them, and having compassion on them.
God recognized their pain, their confusion, their lack of understanding, and instead of abandoning them He had compassion on them. Remember, all the problems the Israelites experienced on their journey from Egypt to the land of milk and honey were of their own making. God had to continually pick up the pieces, put them back together again, and keep them headed in the direction that was best for them.
No matter how far you have fallen from God, how discouraged you have become, how rebellious you have been God loves you unconditionally. He has compassion for you. Also remember that compassion is a two-way street. We are to be compassionate towards others as Jesus is towards us. Yes, compassion takes us out of our comfort zone and leads us into situations we would never have considered without the leading of the Spirit, but that is the nature of compassion.
“When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36
It amazes me why so many people hate Christianity and attack it at every opportunity when God is simply, “healing the brokenhearted and binding up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3