The Command to Compassion

by Chris Surber

CompassionJesus is compassionate. While walking the roads of Galilee, Jesus was above all things compassionate.  It is God’s immeasurable compassion that saves us. Were it not for compassion borne of genuine love for His creation surely God would have left us alone in our sin or simply eradicated humanity as an imperfect sinful blight on creation. But He didn’t because God is compassionate and Jesus is that very compassion for man incarnate.
In the King James Version of the Bible, in the Gospels, the word compassion is found fourteen times. In nearly every instance it speaks directly of the character of Jesus as He shows concern and kindness to individuals, crowds, and multitudes.  Here are three examples from Matthew’s gospel. They give us specific insight into how we can mimic the compassion of Christ in our lives as we shine the light of the Gospel through our lives into this dark world:

  • “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) They had no leadership.
  • “And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.” (Matthew 14:14) They were sick and in need of healing.[ene_ptp]
  • “Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way. (Matthew 15:32) They were hungry and Jesus fed them.

Jesus showed compassion because they had no leader. God is calling us to provide godly leadership those who are lost. At the very least this means that we should be active in sharing the Good News. In a richer sense it means that we should be leading the way to wholeness in people’s lives. We should be shining the light of salvation in terms of eternity and in the saving power of God to transform lives today. Get in somebody’s broken life and help them pick up the pieces.
Jesus showed compassion because they were sick. Jesus showed compassion because they were hungry. It isn’t enough to pray for someone who is in need or to count on somebody else, some agency, or some government office to help those in need. “But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”  (James 2:18 ESV) Do you believe God can change lives? Then make your faith real by being the hand of Christ in the broken life of another human in need of grace.
My friend, too often we measure our orthodoxy as Christians solely in terms of right belief. We hoard sound doctrine instead of using is as a platform for resounding Gospel living. A recommendation for a new person in our town to a “good church” often means a church with a biblical preacher. There isn’t anything wrong with that but its only part of the story. A bible preaching church should be a compassionate-reaching church.
Right belief is the foundation for right action, and right action for Christians entails a lot more than writing a check to a missionary to preach the Gospel, or to volunteer once a year for Vacation Bible School at your church. I’ll say it again. These are good things but the life of a follower of Christ also has a lot to do with how we simply interact with the world around us in compassion to the brokenness of this world.
You’ve got right belief? You own the right study Bible? You prayed the right prayer? You read the right books? Fantastic! Now, what about being the living breathing incarnation of the compassion of God to the people you encounter in your life?  “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” (Hebrews 10:23-24 ESV)
Right belief and right doctrine are good things but they aren’t the only things! When was the last time you gave a cup of cold water to someone who was thirsty? (Matthew 10:42) Have you visited a widow or an orphan in their affliction lately? (James 1:27) Take note, I didn’t ask if somebody on behalf of your church did it or if some missionary you know did it. What is currently happening in your life that fulfills those commands?
In Acts 1:8 Jesus spoke to His disciples. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 ESV) If we are called to pick up our cross and follow Him that means that we too are the disciples that are called to be His witnesses. If we are His witness then we must reflect the truth and compassion of Christ. It isn’t enough to know or even teach the truth if we don’t live it.
To preach Christ is to be Christ to those who need Christ.
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    1. Thanks Doris. It seems to be a topic that confronts me more and more. I find an increasing attitude among some followers of Jesus that makes me fear our preaching without showing is increasing among those who rightly desire to be more faithful in evangelism. We need both.

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