Compassion

There is a certain kind of person who gets very concerned whenever anyone starts talking too much about God’s compassion. They are always the ones to remind you that Jesus was harsh with people at times.

They seem to forget that the people Jesus was consistently harsh with were those who had a problem with God’s compassion.

I think that the reason certain people get nervous about God’s compassion is that God might be compassionate on the wrong sort of people.

It was the “wrong sort of people” that washed Jesus feet with her tears and anointed him with costly ointment.

There are those who view God the way the older brother viewed God – he worked hard for God every day and God never gave him anything. The older brother was angry because the younger brother got to “go out and have fun” and still got the fatted calf.

The older brother never understood sin. So he never understood God’s compassion. God’s compassion meant that someone somewhere is getting away with something – and we have to put a stop to it.

“God’s compassion will lead to chaos. Didn’t you know that? How will society survive if God is compassionate on the wrong sorts of people.

(Jesus never whipped people. He used the whip to drive out the animals.)

These same sort of people get nervous when you talk about empathy. One might find themselves being empathetic with the wrong sorts of people. We can’t have that.

As a disclaimer, I am the wrong sort of person. But Jesus found me. He spoke kindly to me. He drew me into his arms with whispers of love.

Jesus loves me, this I know. For the bible tells me so.

It is not possible to be “too unbalanced” with God’s compassion. It is far greater, far broader, far more extensive, far higher, far deeper than any of us can possibly imagine.

If you are the wrong sort of person, you are just the one that the Father is seeking. Come to Jesus and find rest.

12 Comments

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12 responses to “Compassion

  1. Ahh, sweet Sam! That’s it exactly. I don’t ever want to be the, “right kind of people.”

    These recent attacks on compassion and empathy are mind boggling, but I understand where they are coming from because, well….compassion and empathy.

    Our church has actually had a few picketers in front. Amazing to me because this isn’t about doctrine or politics at all, this is about objecting to God’s compassion which is evident in their signage.

  2. I read this the same day I read the harsh critique of Gentle & Lowly, the book that has ministered to my soul more than any other. Perfect timing. Thank you for this reminder of the Lords compassion towards people like me.

  3. anonymous

    I agree with this but this is where I get confused. Does this apply to unrepentant abusers? My ex has not changed one bit, and he also uses pornography daily (which in itself is abusing and degrading women). Yet he read the parable of the Prodigal son often and thinks it applies to him. Is there anyone this compassion does not apply to, because I’ll be honest; the thought of him getting away with his years of abuse does bother me.

    • The first time Jesus came, it was to show the love and compassion of God to the whole world and call everyone to repentance. This is the goodness of God displayed for all.
      It should lead everyone to repentance.
      Those, such as unrepentant abusers who despise the goodness of God are heaping up wrath for the day of judgment. God’s compassion and goodness does come to an end.
      There will be those who continually refuse to repent. Right now, God is compassionate, seeking to lead them to repent. But their time will run out.
      The Judge of the universe will always do right. When he comes again, it will be for judgment.
      The reason Jesus has not yet returned is due to God’s compassion. He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
      Those who do not repent will face his wrath when he returns. On this the scripture is quite clear.
      And I am so sorry for what you have endured. Take comfort in knowing that he is getting away with nothing. All is marked in God’s book, and your tears are written there to. God is capable and willing to make it right, and he will – when the time comes.

      • Anonymous

        Thank you. That makes it a bit clearer for me. I just find it hard sometimes as it’s this very sort of stuff that my abuser and his family use to excuse him and claim he is saved and therefore under God’s grace and favour, although there has been no repentance at all.

      • God is never fooled and he won’t be mocked.
        You can rest in him.

      • Anu Riley

        Thank you for that reply to that VERY well put inquiry. It’s one of the biggest reasons why I think abusers run rampant in the church, coddled and comforted in the name of “compassion.”

        I have a feeling we are AFRAID to call out their abuse lest we be accused of being judgmental, intolerant, even betraying the Gospel (God loves and died for everyone; this includes abusers).

        But perfect love casts out fear, and fear is connected to punishment. Aka: we fear the abuser because he might punish us if we call him out. So let’s just be “compassionate” and stay silent—and tell victims the same.

        One of the worst accusations as a believer is: you are not compassionate. You are selfish. I have been to scared to cry out in pain and call out those that caused that pain. Being “scared” and “shamed” into submission is suffocating, but it works.

        I can see your comment being treated as you would never intend it to be: if God is holding back on His wrath in the name of compassion, shouldn’t we do the same? He is showing restraint in the name of wanting sinners to repent, and His compassion is the key to that.

        I’ll admit that this issue STILL confuses me. But what helps clear a bit of the fog is this: when professing Christians speak like this, they are conveniently leaving out what compassion would NEVER leave out: those who have been victimized by the horrors of abuse.

        When victims are treated as a mere “inconvenience” and are told to be afraid to speak out, afraid of being punished if they do, afraid they might “hinder” the Gospel (bringing their abuser to Christ) and to obey God and be “compassionate,” that is not Biblical.

        God’s kindness can and does lead to repentance, but His kindness would never treat the oppressed as “collateral damage.” I know this well: it’s “godly” to live with a sickened soul, in the name of gaining a soul.

        I’ve seen compassion treated as a sign of weakness; a person is soft hearted and feels sorry for others. Gets taken advantage of. If and when they get hurt as a result, they have no one but themselves to blame. They need to toughen up. Stop being a doormat.

        One of the BEST things about your writings is that they point back to the workings of the mind of Christ, which is nothing like how our minds work.

        Compassion requires the Lord’s strength. I have no idea how anyone can do it otherwise. To my limited mind, it often feel like a combo of buffoonery AND bravery. I DO understand how it can backfire; it’s happened to me time and time again. And you really do wonder if everyone else is right: you are weak, not wise. If you had done it well, it would have gone well.

        If that’s the case, then God Himself is the biggest sinner of all time. So I’d be careful; in pointing the finger at those around you, you might ultimately be pointing the finger at the One above you.

        I’ve noticed compassion is like a sport. There are those that are sweating, and those that are spectating. The latter are watching and screaming that they are doing it “all wrong.” the former are working and well, being screamed that they are doing it “all wrong.” Can you imagine: heckling instead of helping. That’s what is has come down to.

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  5. parthalon

    The current argument I have heard is that before you may present the Gospel to a sinner (with whom you sympathize, understanding their need for God’s compassionate mercy), you must first empathize with their sin (emotionally dally in their hatred of God and their rebellion against His word). That is, one cannot recognize an abuser’s desperate need for salvation and call him to repentance without first putting one’s self in the place of that abuser and imagine feeling the emotional need to abuse one’s wife (obviously, other sins are usually chosen in example).
    If you are arguing that Jesus Christ came to save sinners, of whom I am chief, I can only whole-heartedly agree. If you are addressing the above argument and saying that the Gospel requires empathizing with the sin, I need more biblical support.
    Your reference to Jesus whipping animals but not men, I presume is drawn from the gospel of John, chapter 2. In reading that, it says he made a whip and drove out both men and beasts. If you interpret that to say he whipped the beasts, it would seem that you would need to add that he whipped men as well. It may be more clear in the original Greek, and so I would ask for more instruction there.
    Lastly, you quoted “the wrong sort of people.” Is that a quote from someone? If so, whom? Or is that a label of your own creation?
    If it is a label of your own creation, I would be first to acknowledge that I am one of those wrong sort of people, a sinner, damned and without hope apart from the gracious work of my glorious Savior. If it is a quote of another’s words (which impression the quotes give), I am curious to know who used the phrase so that I might better understand what they are saying.
    Thank you for your time and patience.

    • I have never heard anyone make the argument of your first paragraph.
      Thanks for the comment.

    • Anu Riley

      I’ve heard things something along your argument in your first paragraph; if I may put it in another way. This is the narrative I tend to sense when we are told to forgive those who have sinned against us. So, picture a victim of abuse in that scenario:

      Compassion (and subsequently forgiving someone) means you put yourself in the shoes of the one who sinned against you, and consider what their lives may or must have been like to have led to their treatment of you. This humanizes them as you attempt to empathize with them—and you start to feel sorry for them. You feel less hateful, less hardened in heart.

      Say, your abuser had an abusive upbringing, or was abused as a child. The cycle simply continued. Ah, now you see more clearly.

      However, this can and often does encourage and leads to “dumbing down” what has been done to you, or “reducing the charges” against your offender or oppressor—in the name of forgiving him or her. In actual court settings, it’s not unusual to paint a murderer in the most sympathetic light as possible, or paint the victim in the most UN-sympathetic light as possible. It all depends on which side you are on.

      When the Lord got a hold of me, He never minimized of my sins. And I had been victimized for much of my life. Now, I felt His compassion in that respect; make no mistake. But that SAME compassion also told me that I needed to repent for my sins. God’s kindness empathized with my victimization, AND also emboldened me to repent. One did not get “traded” for the other. They worked together in perfect harmony and balance.

      I’ll never understand the need to “rearrange” the narrative in order to be forgiven AND to forgive others. I do not think the Lord had to “work” to do what He did for me; He was simply being who He was (and still is).

      Since then I’ve been hurt by a lot of people, a lot of times. I’ve also hurt a lot of people, a lot of times. He never changed His ways in dealing with me as He had from the very start; why would He? So why should we?

      So that I don’t sound or seem like I have it all figured out, I still have more questions than answers. I struggle to abide in Him in order to achieve the balance He showed me: never demeaning one side in order to elevate the other. The empathy factor must work with what the Bible commands: sound mind and doctrine (2 Timothy 1:7).

      Compassion is not about being “too hard” on or “too easy” on someone. It is about abiding in Him, and Him in us. It is being in Him, and Him in us.

      I once read that if abiding was a one way process, we’d be doomed. He must abide in us as well us as in Him for His fruit to be borne. I try to tell myself that when I feel alone, and hopeless. Empathy does not come naturally to me, even though He’s shown me SO much of it. But if He is still willing to abide in me, so am I.

  6. Anu Riley

    I love your writings for many reasons; this one in particular because you brought up the parable of the prodigal son.

    We often forget that father had TWO sons; were they not both “prodigals” in their own ways? One stayed home and did what he was told to do, the other left the home and did whatever he wanted.

    My take involves a measure of compassion for BOTH sons.
    One son rebelled, ran away and relished every moment of it. The other son worked hard, maybe TOO hard (possibly as a result of the absence of the other son), and resentment built up over time.

    He told his father that he had never been rewarded for all his years or sweat and service. Not even a small goat so he could celebrate with his friends. He never disobeyed, never used his inheritance in bring shame on the family name (spent it on prostitutes) as “this son of yours.”

    In my mind, the father’s compassion on BOTH sons is exactly the same. It’s not more lenient for one, less than lenient on the others.

    My heart goes out to both sons because I understand a measure of both of them. You can have the “moron” gene by not working and living it up. You can have the “mean” gene by working hard and well, not living at all.

    The older son could have asked his father anytime for anything in order to celebrate (“you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.”). Was he too busy simmering with resentment to make time to enjoy life once the workday was over?

    The father could have “stuck it” to the older son when he claimed that he never disobeyed him. Even in parable terms, that’s not possible. But that wasn’t the point of the heart of the parable, IMO. The point was using compassion to met the needs of BOTH sons.

    The younger son was wasting away with starvation by the end of his wasteful living. So imagine him practically crawling home, hoping his father would take him back as a servant just so he could eat and survive. It’s a wonder his father even recognized him, even from a distance.

    Maybe he killed the fattened calf to put some much needed fat back on his skin and bones son. Put a robe and shoes on his feet because he was nearly naked, and had calloused feet. Put the ring on his hand to signify that I welcome you back as a son, not a servant.

    The other son complained of being neglected. The “good kid” gets nothing, the “bad kid” gets everything—including and especially all the attention.

    The father didn’t stop to compare and contrast the badness and goodness of either sons. He said, all you had to do was ask of me.

    But even in his pleadings to his older son to join the celebration, he would not apologize how he treated his younger one: it’s fitting to celebrate him: “your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.”

    I have always read that in the spiritual context but now I wonder if you can add more to it: that son had been gone so long; maybe hadn’t heard from him much, if at all. I might presume he was literally dead. Being lost can be taken literally as well. The parable says he journeyed to a “far country.” Imagine being weak, sickly and near starving while literally trying to find his way home. I wonder if he traveled in circles a few times before finding the right road.

    I think I’ve been both sons: rebellious and resentful. Both were given a measure of compassion, neither of them deserved it.

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