Friday night a group of us went to an outdoor concert and movie at the park. While we were sitting on the grass visiting and listening to music, a child on a neighboring blanket began crying because his mother had left him for a few minutes. We looked at him and sympathized from afar. Marge went over and tried to comfort him. Marge does things like that a lot. We were at lunch together Saturday, and there was a bird without a leg She felt so bad for him that she went over and tried to give him some water. (He flew away — he wasn’t as disabled as we thought!
Compassion builds a bridge to others across our selfishness and fears.
Without compassion, we would be nothing. We would be treated as our sins deserve. God would have destroyed us long ago.
- He does not treat us as our sins deserve . . Ps 103:10
- Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. Lam 3:2
Without it, our friends and coworkers would have given up on us.
Without it, I would faint, brought low by the consequences of my own foolish acts. I think of the people I have hurt, the prideful choices that led me in the wrong direction.
How life giving it is, that compassion is part of the nature of God!
- And (the Lord) passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin Ex 34:6-7
- Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. Lam 3:32
How wonderful it is, that compassion is not just God’s nature, it is relational. God has compassion on us because he is invested in us, and cares, personally for each of us —
- As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him. Ps 103:13
- A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name. “On the day when I act,” says the LORD Almighty, “they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him. Mal 3:16 – 17
- “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboyim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. Hos 11:18
- But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. Is 49:15
And the very greatest thing is that the relational compassion extended to the point of saving you and me.
We use Isa 59:1-2 when we study the Bible with people to talk about how people are separated from God by their sins — “The LORD is not too weak to save or his ear too deaf to hear. But your wrongs have separated you from your God, and your sins have made him hide his face so that he doesn’t hear you.”
Isa 53 goes on to describe what the abject condition of people without God — “Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. . . We all growl like bears; we moan mournfully like doves.
But God’s heart is moved, and He doesn’t leave us in the misery we created for ourselves: “He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation for him.”
Jesus saved us. And in his very life, He exemplified the compassion of God —
- Jesus had compassion because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without shepherd Matt 9:36
- When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Matt 14:14
We are sustained by compassion. It is the milk and bread of our days. We depend on God to do good to us, not because we deserve it, but because he is gracious. We depend on others to forgive us in spite of our careless acts and irritable words.
Will our hearts, like God and like Jesus, be moved? Will we get out of our self absorption to reach out to others, friends and strangers alike? Surely we can bestow pearls of kindness as we go about our day, and not hoard what is in our heart like a grumpy dragon.
God has been good to us. His dealings with us are defined by gentle touch of compassion. May this be our heart as well.
I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them. Hos 11:4