Compassion A Compassion B Compassion C Compassion D
By John Shroyer
In the New Wilson's Old Testament Word Study, compassion is defined as "to be mild, to have mercy upon anyone." Note that this definition says "anyone." Anyone means anyone. This suggests that the showing of compassion is not dependent upon how deserving the recipient is. Compassion also means to be tender, to entreat with tenderness." So tenderness is also an integral part of compassion.
In the Bible, the word "compassion" is specifically used of God's pitying of His afflicted people. Webster's Dictionary (Ninth New Collegiate Edition) provides additional insight concerning the meaning of compassion. Webster defines compassion as "a sympathetic consciousness of others' distress, together with a desire to alleviate it." This definition provides an even greater understanding of the nature of compassion. It is not only to be aware of others' needs, but also to have a desire to alleviate their distress.
Many people are not aware of the needs of others. They go through life in their own little worlds, selfishly focused on their own needs and goals. Other people recognize the needs of others but are not motivated to do something to help them. A person with compassion is not only aware of others' needs, but also has a burning desire to reach out and help meet those needs. A compassionate person gets involved in the lives of others and freely gives of his resources, abilities, and time to provide assistance. The giving of one's time is an important aspect of this because time is the most precious thing an individual has to give.
The Word of God reveals that God is a God of compassion. He is full of compassion for His people (Psalm 86:15). Psalm 78:35-39 shows that God is compassionate to His people even when they don't deserve it.
"And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer.
Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues.
For their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant.
But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yen, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath.
For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again."
One reason that God is compassionate to His people is because He knows what we are made of -- He remembers that we are flesh. In Psalm 103:14 this truth is reiterated: "For He knoweth our frame, He remembereth that we are dust." This reality is also reflected in Jesus Christ's words "...the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:4 lb) and in II Corinthians 4:7: "But we have this treasure in earthen [emphasis added] vessels." When God's children fail to live up to His standards, God remembers that we are "but flesh." And when we come to Him for forgiveness and healing, he embraces us with a heart full of compassion and love (I John 1:9; Psalm 103:8-18).
I In Psalm 86 we find a wonderful prayer of David. It reminds me of a prayer that my sister gave me recently. It reads as follows:
Dear Lord, so far today, God, I've done alright.
I haven't gossiped, I haven't lost my temper,
I haven't been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or overindulgent.
I'm very thankful for that.
But, in a few minutes, God, I'm going to get out of bed.
And from then on, I'm probably going to need a lot more help.
Most of us do well until we get out of bed. And that's when the challenges of the day begin. David was facing some major challenges in his life when he prayed to God in Psalm 86.
"Bow down thine ear, O LORD, bear me: for I am poor and needy.
Preserve my soul; for I am holy: O thou my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee.
Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto thee daily." (Psalm 86:1-3)
In verse 2 of this psalm, David makes a fantastic statement to God. He declares that he is holy. Was David holy on his own, in his flesh? No. But God had made him holy. God had anointed him with His spirit (I Samuel 16:13). In this day and time, those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ are holy in God's sight. The Bible calls those who believe in Christ "saints" (Ephesians 1: 1). This word is translated from the Greek word "hagios" which means "holy." Saints, or holy ones, have been sealed with the holy spirit of promise (Ephesians 1:13).
The third verse in Psalm 86 states that David cried out to God daily. This doesn't mean that he frantically cried out "O Lord, O Lord." It means that David talked to God. Moreover, he talked to God daily. This is a great truth. God desires for His holy ones, His children, to talk with Him daily.
The next few verses of Psalm 86 reveal that David called upon God with the full assurance that God would answer him.
"... for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.
Give ear, O LORD, unto my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications.
In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me." (Psalm 86:4b-7)
David was confident that when he prayed to God, God would answer him. As Christians, we ought to have the same confidence that God will hear and answer us. The Bible teaches that God is our Father (I John 3:1-2). Even earthly fathers listen and respond when their children come to them with problems and needs. Isn't God Almighty, our Heavenly Father, better than any earthly father could ever be? There's no comparison! Over and over again, God assures us in His Word that He will hear and answer our prayers (I John 5:14-15; Hebrews 4:16).
In the next few verses of this psalm, David expounds on the greatness of the one true God. These verses show God's awesome ability to help us when we cry out to Him.
"Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto thy works.
All nations whom thou bast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name.
For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone." (Psalm 86:8-10)
Not only is God willing to answer our prayers, He is infinitely more able to assist us than any other being in the universe! As David says in these verses: "Among the gods there is none like unto Thee, O Lord ... thou art God alone." Moses expressed the same truth in his song to the Lord after He parted the Red Sea so the children of Israel could pass over (Exodus 15:11): "Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods?" The great Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar stated his awe of God's supreme ability when he said: "...there is no other God that can deliver after this sort." (Daniel 3:29)
"Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.
I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore." (Psalm 86:11-12)
Look at all the "I wills" in these two verses. This has got to be our prayer as well. A lot of times we are wanting God to do this and do that for us. But what are we going to do? When we pray to God, we have to tell Him what we will do, just as David did. In these verses, David tells God that he will walk in His truth, praise Him, and glorify His name forevermore. Verse 13 tells us what God did for David.
"For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell." (Psalm 86:13)
Frequently, Christian believers think that God's mercy is for other people, but that somehow they are not quite good enough to deserve it themselves. Or they think that because they made some bad mistakes or really "blew it," they are not worthy to receive God's mercy. The Bible informs us that David made some pretty bad mistakes (II Samuel 11 and 12; I Chronicles 21), and yet he boldly declared: "...great is thy mercy toward me..." Every Christian needs to recognize that he or she can make the same bold statement: "great is thy mercy toward me" (Psalm 23:6, Psalm 103:8,1 1).
"O God, the proud are risen against me, and. the assemblies of violent men have sought after my soul; and have not set thee before them.
But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth." (Psalm 86:14-15)
Sometimes unbelievers (and at times "unbelieving" believers) rise up against God's people. These unbelievers are characterized in very descriptive terms: "proud," "assemblies of violent men," "[those that] have not set thee [God] before them." But what do they matter, when we have a God who is full of compassion, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth? A God who delivers us to the uttermost! The Amplified Bible adds "lovingkindness" to the list of God's wonderful attributes in Psalm 86:15. What a beautiful portrayal of our loving Heavenly Father! No wonder David could cry unto God with full assurance that He would hear and answer him. When we think of our Heavenly Father in these terms, we too, will go to Him with great confidence. God's graciousness and compassion towards His people is emphasized repeatedly throughout the Bible.
"He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: the LORD is gracious and full of compassion." (Psalm 111:4)
"unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous." (Psalm 112:4)
There is always light in the darkness for the believer because God Almighty is full of compassion. When we make mistakes, we can always turn to God and He will reach down for us. And we need this. Even when we haven't made a mistake, we still need God's compassion because we have an adversary who tries to tempt and afflict us (Luke 4:1-13; Hebrews 2:18, 4:15; I Peter 1:6-7, 5:8-9). God understands our challenges and He understands that we may sometimes get discouraged. But we have a great God, a God who is full of compassion, mercy, and grace. We have a God who is able to cause us to triumph in every circumstance. Psalm 145:3 states that God's greatness is unsearchable!
"Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts.
I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works.
And men shall speak of the might of thy terrible [awesome] acts: and I will declare thy greatness.
They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness.
The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.
The LORD is good to all: And his tender mercies are over all his works." (Psalm 145:3-9)
The word 'great" or some variation of it is used six times in this verse in relation to God. One definition of "great" is 4 remarkable in magnitude, degree, or effectiveness" (Webster's Dictionary, Ninth New Collegiate Edition). God is GREAT! He is great in all things, including goodness, grace, mercy, and compassion. Verse 8 states that God is full of compassion and verse 9 reveals that His tender mercies (literally, compassions) are over all His works. This means that God's compassions are over His children, because we are included in His works.
Sometimes Christian believers get discouraged and feel defeated. At these times, we need to remember that God is there for us and that His compassions cover us. His compassions are over us whether we made mistakes or whether we didn't make mistakes, whether we deserve them or whether we don't.
"This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.
It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:21-23)
These verses show why believers can have hope in every situation. It is because God's compassions toward His people fail not. Verse 23 informs us that God's compassions are "new" every morning and that His faithfulness (to be compassionate, merciful, etc.) is great.
Religious leaders over time have enslaved Christians by their erroneous portrayal of God as uncompassionate and even vindictive. Too often believers have the idea that God has a ball bat poised above their heads, ready for use, if they step out of line. Even today false prophets promulgate devilish doctrines which deceive God's children into thinking that their lives are worthless and not worth living. Such doctrines have no basis in the Holy Scriptures which clearly teach that God's compassions are new every morning. When a child of God recognizes that God's compassions fail not, he can face each new day with great believing and expectation!
"And the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah, saying,
Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother:
And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother In your heart." (Zechariah 7:8-10)
As God has great compassion for us, He desires that we show great mercy and compassion to our brothers. As Christians, we should have great compassion and understanding for one another. We should be consciously aware of others' needs and take action to alleviate them. There is a beautiful poem to this effect:
God has no hands but ours with which to give them bread. He has no feet but ours with which to walk among the almost dead.
We say that we are His and He is ours.
Deeds are the Proof of this, not words, and these are the proving hours.
As believers move forward into "the valley of human need," God will be working in us to will and to do of His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). He will give us the strength to be compassionate and merciful and to undo the heavy burdens (Isaiah 58:6-8).
In Zechariah 7:10b, God gives further instruction to His people "...and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart." For a Christian believer to imagine evil against his brother in his heart is the antithesis of compassion. Believers at times may succumb to the temptation to get angry and indignant at others. However, this verse is not referring to the fleeting, evil thoughts that often accompany a quick burst of anger and which are soon forgotten. In contrast, this verse refers to the harboring of evil thoughts against a brother which is a "heart" matter (Matthew 15:16-19; Mark 7:20-23; Proverbs 4:23). Evil imaginations in a person's heart become manifested sooner or later as evil deeds because "...out of it [the heart] are the issues of life." Christians must guard against even thinking evil about their brothers in Christ (I Corinthians 13:5). It is impossible for a believer to walk in compassion and mercy when he is harboring evil thoughts against others.
Hebrews 1:3 portrays Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as the express image of God. As God's son, he magnificently revealed His Heavenly Father in everything he said and did (John 1:18, John 14:9). As God is compassionate, so Jesus Christ is compassionate. As God is merciful, so Jesus Christ is merciful. As God is forgiving, so Jesus Christ is forgiving. The Gospels contain numerous examples of Jesus Christ's great compassion towards people during his earthly ministry. Matthew 14:13-14 is one such record.
"When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities.
And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick." (Matthew 14:13-14)
These verses describe Jesus Christ's reaction to the horrible news that John the Baptist had been killed. John the Baptist was a prophet, a great man of God. John was also related to Jesus, since he was the son of Elizabeth, Jesus' mother's kinswoman.
When Jesus heard the report of John's execution, he departed by ship into a desert place apart from the multitudes. A desert place would be a very private location. He wanted to get away from the crowds with his trusted disciples to privately mourn the death of his relative.
Sometimes when people get badly hurt, they withdraw into their own private corner of the world. But instead of letting the Word of God minister to their emotional wounds so they can be healed and refreshed, they stay hidden away, fearful of being hurt again.
Jesus was deeply hurt by the death of John the Baptist. And Jesus sought the solitude of a private place with his beloved disciples to recover from the hurt and sorrow of John's death. But he didn't stay there forever. It says in verse 14 that "...Jesus went forth..." meaning that he came out of his private place. And after he went forth, he "...saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick."
In spite of his emotional pain, Jesus was moved with compassion. It says he was moved with compassion toward them [the multitude]. The Greek word translated "toward" means "motion applied." He just didn't take a step or two forward, but he reached out and touched them. He ministered among the people and healed their sick. He got out among them and met their spiritual and physical needs. He didn't hide from God's people. The compassion of God that burned in his soul made him reach out and help them.
In Matthew 18, Jesus shares a parable to illustrate the compassion that believers should have for others and to explain why they should be compassionate. The parable shows that great forgiveness is also an integral part of compassion. If a person is unforgiving, it is hard for him to move ahead with the things of God. A person's refusal to forgive places heavy weights on his heart and burdens him down. A person who is unforgiving is not going to manifest compassion to others. Being unforgiving leads to bitterness, and if left unchecked, will eventually produce a root of bitterness (Hebrews 12:15). And the root of bitterness, like the root of a plant or a tree, is a difficult thing to dislodge. That's why it is important for a Christian to have a forgiving heart.
"Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him which owed him ten thousand talents.
But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children. And all that he had, and payment to be made." (Matthew 18:23-25)
A single talent was worth one hundred and thirty one pounds of gold. Thus, this man owed the king one million, three hundred and ten thousand pounds of gold! This was an insurmountable debt for the servant. There was no way he could ever repay it.
The king recognized that his servant could never repay a debt of this magnitude, He knew that the only way to get some kind of payment was to sell the man and his family. Even then the amount he received would be small in comparison to what the servant owed him. But from the servant's perspective, his family was worth more to him than all the gold in the world!
"The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion [emphasis added], and loosed him, and forgave him the debt." (Matthew 18:26-27)
The man had a debt that would take a hundred life times to pay off. This is the key point of the parable: the servant owed his lord a tremendous debt, and yet, when the man asked him, his lord forgave him.
"But the same servant went out and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying go Pay me that thou owest.
And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:
Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I have pity on thee?
And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him." (Matthew 18:28-34)
The amount of money the servant was owed by his fellow servant was infinitesimal in comparison to the servant's previous debt to his lord. A pence is equal approximately to 64 cents; a hundred pence is equal to 64 dollars. And yet this servant, after having received great forgiveness from his lord for a debt of incredible magnitude, went after his fellow servant and grabbing him by the throat, demanded that he pay, what was in comparison, a small debt.
When the servant's peers observed how he had treated his fellow servant, they were sorry. The word "sorry" means 66 greatly distressed." They couldn't believe that he would act this way! The man had just been forgiven of a debt he couldn't possibly pay in a hundred lifetimes. The forgiveness of his lord meant that the servant, his wife, and his children were spared a lifetime of slavery. And after all of this, he turns right around and has his fellow servant cast into jail over a measly $64!
The servant's peers were so upset that they went and told the man's lord what was done. The lord responds by calling the servant "wicked." "Wicked" means causing suffer or pain by being evil and vicious. And then this parable's great lesson becomes clear as the lord continues to speak: "Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?" The analogy is now evident to all with ears to hear: Jesus Christ is teaching his followers to be compassionate and forgiving to each other, even as God is compassionate and forgiving to them.
Sometimes believers have trouble forgiving other people for the wrongs they have committed against them. But the offenses of others will become small in our minds if we will only consider the greatness of the forgiveness that God has shown and continues to show to us. At different times in my life, individuals have greatly wronged me and deeply hurt me by their actions. But I forgave them. I didn't hang onto the bad feelings, anger, and resentment that I felt towards them. I forgave them and moved ahead. And God healed my heart. When a believer walks in forgiveness, he will always have that compassion in his soul to reach out and help others. And there is nothing more rewarding, both now and in eternity.
Luke 15:11ff records the well-known parable of the Prodigal Son. Because of the lesson that it teaches, a more appropriate title might be "The Parable of the Forgiving Father." A major theme of this parable is the great forgiveness the father shows to his son, even though he doesn't deserve it. The parable also illustrates the 'joy in heaven' over one sinner that repenteth (cp. Luke 15:10 and Luke 15:32).
"And he said, A certain man had two sons:
And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.
And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
But the father said to his servants Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.
And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.
And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.
And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated him.
And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid that I might make merry with my friends:
But as soon as this thy son was comet which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou bast killed for him the fatted calf.
And he said unto him Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found. (Luke 15:11-32)
In this parable, the son spends all of his inheritance on riotous living, finally ending up destitute and starving. He decides to go back home (where even his father's servants have plenty to eat) and seek his father's forgiveness. When he is yet a great way off, his father sees him and runs toward him. He falls on his neck and kisses him. The hearer learns that the father has not forgotten his son but has been looking for him all along. And that's the great truth revealed by this parable: Our Heavenly Father is always looking for us to come home to Him! He is always waiting for us with His arms wide open to embrace us! As the father in the parable rejoiced greatly over the return of his wayward son, so great is the rejoicing in heaven over one sinner that repents (see Luke 15:10).
The reaction of the other son to the return of his brother stands in stark contrast to the father's compassion and rejoicing. The other son was upset that his father was making such a big deal about his brother's return since he certainly didn't deserve it. It just wasn't fair that his father was acting this way!
Sometimes Christians are tempted to react like the eldest son in this parable. A believer who has been born again and working for God for 50 years might resent that his brother who just got born again has as much righteousness and as many rights and privileges as he does. But the truth of the matter is: the older disciple has had the benefits of 50 years of living with God, 50 years of blessings that the other fellow hasn't had the joy of experiencing. It's as the father in the parable gently explained to his older son: "Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine."
This moving parable highlights the importance of forgiveness and compassion. The image of the father looking for the return of his son and then joyfully welcoming him is a powerful one. And this loving father forgave his son before he even asked for his forgiveness, didn't he? This should speak loudly to our ears. Sometimes we are confronted with the need to forgive someone even though that person has not asked us for our forgiveness. I am sure that some of us can think of times in our lives when we were badly hurt by someone and yet we knew that we needed to forgive that individual. This can be challenging to our flesh. And yet Jesus Christ did not wait for the Roman soldiers who were crucifying him to recognize their grievous transgression before saying "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."
At the center of compassion is forgiveness. And we can observe this relationship time and time again as we study the ministry of Jesus Christ in the Gospels. His great example is the one we must cleave to in times of temptation. So when the Adversary tempts us to walk in bitterness and offense by refusing to forgive someone, we must "turn our eyes upon Jesus" and "look full in his wonderful face." For as we continue to look into his eyes of love, the offenses of men gradually fade into insignificance, and we are able to forgive and move ahead.
"Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices." (II Corinthians 2:11)
This great verse warning of the devices or methods of Satan is familiar to most Christians. But not everyone recognizes the context of this solemn exhortation: it is forgiveness. The New International Version of the Bible provides a particularly expressive rendering of the verses preceding II Corinthians 2:11.
"If someone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent - not to put it too severely.
The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him.
Now instead, ye ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow." (II Corinthians 2:5-7 New International Version)
The individual spoken of here had grievously erred. But when confronted with his sin, he repented of it. Now the Apostle Paul instructs the Corinthian believers to stop "railing" on the guy. Otherwise, Paul wams, he will be "swallowed up with overmuch sorrow" (II Corinthians 2:7 King James Version).
"Swallowed" is an interesting word; it means literally "to drink down, swallow down as in drinking" (Builinger's Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament). When you swallow a sip of water or a piece of food, it's down, isn't it? Well, that's what can happen to people when condemnation is heaped upon them. Thus, the Apostle Paul exhorts the Christians of Corinth to forgive and comfort their brother in Christ.
"Now instead, ye ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.
I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.
The reason I wrote you was to see if ye would stand the test and be obedient in everything." (II Corinthians 2:7-9 New International Version)
Paul exhorted the believers to be obedient to the end of forgiving this man. Some Christians have no difficulty confronting a brother or sister in Christ concerning sin, but are they compassionate to that individual both in the manner they confront him and later as well? The critical questions are: Are we forgiving? Do we follow up afterwards?
"If ye forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven - if there was anything to forgive - I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake,
in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes." (II Corinthians 2:10-11 New International Version)
Isn't it revealing that the context of this latter verse (verse 11), which is often quoted in reference to spiritual warfare, is forgiveness? Satan's greatest scheme is to divide up the church of God by setting brother against brother. Then he works to prevent reconciliation among brothers and sisters in Christ by tempting them to keep that unforgiving state intact in their own hearts and lives. In the final analysis, it is an unwillingness to forgive that really tears apart families, marriages, fellowships, ministries, and so forth. And the only way believers can thwart this scheme of the Adversary is by walking in forgiveness towards each other.
A believer's forgiveness of a brother or sister in Christ, or an unbeliever, should not depend upon whether the individual has asked the believer for forgiveness or on whether the individual is also willing to forgive (assuming there are wrongful actions on the part of both parties to the dispute). Each believer should forgive those who have wronged him whether or not they have asked for forgiveness and whether or not they are willing to reciprocate that forgiveness. When a Christian makes up his mind to forgive regardless of the situation or individuals involved, God blesses him richly for his obedience and enlarges his compassionate heart. And Satan does not gain an advantage over him!
The Gospels are filled with numerous examples that show the great compassion Jesus Christ manifested towards people during his earthly ministry. Whether the need was small (e.g., food to satisfy hunger), or whether it was overwhelming from a sense's point of view, Jesus Christ was able and willing to meet it. The examples from the Gospels reveal what it means to have a truly compassionate heart.
"And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people." (Matthew 9:35)
In examining this record in Matthew, the first thing we should notice is Jesus Christ's sphere of activity. In other words, a key question we might ask is: "Where is Jesus Christ?" And this leads us to observe that he is out among the people.
It is impossible to walk in compassion if a person sits alone in his home, separated from others. A Christian can't isolate himself from the world and at the same time carry out God's work. In verse 4 of the first chapter of Haggai, God reproved His people for this same type of behavior: "Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled [paneled, implying roofed and decorated] houses, and this house [God's house] lie waste?" In this day and time, God's house is the Body of Christ. To build up the Body of Christ requires ministering to God's people. And to minister to people, a believer has to get out among them.
"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.
Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;
Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers Into his harvest." (Matthew 9:36-38)
As we needed the Word of God (and still do), others need it too. The harvest is great, even as it was in Jesus' time, and God needs labourers to work His harvest. And God looks for individuals with compassionate hearts to labour in His harvest. Individuals like the Good Samaritan who willingly stopped on the road to Jericho to minister to the needs of a dying stranger, ultimately saving the man's life.
"And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee." (Luke 10:30-35)
An interesting aspect of this parable is its depiction of religious people (i.e., the priest and the Levite) as the least compassionate of all. Many times, people who are caught up in their own self-righteousness are spiritually blind to the needs of others or else they are harsh and judgmental like the older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son. Their focus is always on their own selves and the works of their own flesh. Instead of rejoicing that a believer who has sinned wants to come back into the fold or that an unbeliever wants to join God's household, they are critical and criticizing.
In contrast to such hard-heartedness, compassion involves a genuine concern for others: their thoughts, their hearts, and their feelings. Compassion means that we are as understanding as we can be regarding what others are going through. Even though we may not fully understand their plight, especially if we have not experienced it ourselves, we can mentally put ourselves in the other person's shoes for a bit and realize "if this were me, this is what I would be going through."
But the compassion of Jesus Christ goes far beyond an empathy for others. It is a spiritual quality that reflects the love of God at work within a believer's heart. Compassion, like believing [faith], is energized by love (Galatians 5:6). And it takes both compassion (the desire to act to alleviate distress) and believing (the action itself) to bring to pass signs, miracles, and wonders. How many times in the Gospels is a great miracle of healing predicated by the words "...and Jesus, moved with compassion..."?
"And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
And Jesus, moved with compassion [emphasis added], put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean." (Mark 1:40-41)
Did this leper have any doubt in his mind that Jesus Christ could heal him? None, whatsoever. The leper's only concern was: "Are you willing? Do you have the desire to help me? I know you can do it, but will you?" In many respects, God poises the same kind of question to believers when He says to them: "I have given you all the ability. I have equipped you with all the power. I have enabled you with all the enablements. You can do everything! Will you?"
In this great record in Mark, two distinct actions of Christ are recorded. First, Jesus reached out and touched the leper. With this action, he broke a cardinal rule of Judean culture: a leper is not to be touched. And this rule was not an unreasonable one since leprosy was a highly contagious disease. But Jesus did more than simply touch this leper. The Greek word translated "touched" also means "to embrace." Jesus Christ hugged him! He reached out and he hugged the 'unhuggable,' a man with a dreaded disease. And then he said "I will; be thou clean." With these words, Jesus ministered healing to the man.
This great record of deliverance, as well as many others, demonstrates that it doesn't take a whole lot of words to minister healing to someone, Here Jesus Christ said simply: "I will; be thou clean." How many words is this? Not many words at all. But the words that he spoke were the words of God, the words God gave him to speak, and they carried with them the power of God.
"And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed." (Mark 1:42)
Was the man cleansed when Jesus reached out and hugged him? No. But immediately when Jesus spoke the words "I will; be thou clean," the man received his healing. Jesus Christ spoke the word of God to the man. And the word of God is the power of God in action! (Hebrews 4:12, 11:3; John 3:34, 6:63) And it happened - the leper was healed.
The compassion that Jesus Christ felt for this man compelled him to take believing action, to act in faith, to minister healing to him. That is the example of Jesus Christ. And he set this example for us to follow (John 14:12). So as Christians, we've got to take believing action - we've got to act on our faith in Christ. Many times I have been in situations where I had no idea of how I was going to minister to God's people. But I moved anyway - I acted in faith according to God's Word. And as I moved, God moved. God would give me the words to say, something would come to my mind, and I would know what to do. And God brought to pass great deliverance to those I was ministering to.
"And it came to pass the day after, that he [Jesus] went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people.
Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her." (Luke 7:11-12)
The situation facing Jesus was heartrending. Here was a woman who was suddenly all alone. She didn't have a husband any longer. She had a son, but now he was dead. What an awful position this woman was in! And there was much people with her which indicates she had to have been loved by a lot of folks. They were trailing along with her.
"And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her: Weep not.
And be came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.
And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother." (Luke 7:13-15)
Jesus Christ spoke seven words of deliverance: "Young man, I say unto thee, Arise." And the young man was restored to life. This is quite a powerful record in God's Word, is it not? Jesus Christ raised the man from the dead with his word. And it is available for a believer in Christ to do the same. Jesus Christ revealed a glimpse of the awesome power that a believer has when he declared "...the works that I do, shall he do also;" (John 14:12). In Christ, a believer has the power to heal the sick, and even raise the dead. But it's the compassion of God that moves a believer to action, it's that love of God that energizes a believer's faith to bring God's solution (answer) into the senses realm. Love energizes believing. And compassion is the love of God at work within a believer's heart.
God first loved us. And in His infinite compassion and loving kindness, He redeemed us in Christ. God rescued us, He delivered us out from among the exercised power of darkness. He snatched us out of the hand of the enemy! In view of this, what response could we have but to help free others? We have the Word of God, the Truth, burning in our souls. Let's move forward in great compassion and make Christ's riches available to others. Let's walk so that others can see the reality of Christ in us! Ephesians 4:21-32 describes the greatness of this Christian walk.
"If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:
That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
And be renewed In the spirit of your mind;
And that ye put on the new man ..." (Ephesians 4:21-24)
The new man is that compassionate, loving, tender person - the person of Christ within. Let's manifest that new spiritual person. Let's live in the mode of the "new man."
"And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another.
Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
Neither give place to the devil." (Ephesians 4:24-27)
As in II Corinthians 2:10-11, we are warned about one of the devil's primary devices: he tempts us to remain angry and unforgiving. Isn't that how he tries to take advantage of us? By tempting us to be unforgiving and hard-hearted? Let's not give place to him. Let's be forgiving and compassionate to people whether they deserve it or not.
"Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:28-30)
Corrupt communication consists of words that tear people down, rather than building them up -- words that hurt, that cut people's hearts like knives. Corrupt communication also includes cursing and curse words - words that direct one's attention to the base things of man instead of the holiness of God.
The last sentence of this segment of scripture admonishes: "And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." "To grieve the holy Spirit of God" is the result of a Christian's refusal to do the will of God, to obey the Word of God. It grieves God and the holy spirit within us when we fail to live in accordance with the Truth. When God instructs us to be compassionate and forgiving, and we refuse to comply with His directive, we grieve the holy Spirit of God.
"Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you [emphasis added], with all malice:" (Ephesians 4:31)
Most of these words are pretty familiar to us, with the exception, perhaps, of clamour. Do you know what "clamour" is? Clamour is "screaming" - "screaming and shouting." God is informing us that He doesn't want Christian believers to run around yelling and screaming at people. This admonition applies to all believers, regardless of their position or function within the Body of Christ. Furthermore, God makes it clear that we are to put away all evil speaking. Now this doesn't mean that we close our eyes to or ignore situations that need to be handled. If an individual and/or situation needs to be confronted, then we compassionately confront that individual and situation according to the Word of God. In other words, we strive to reach a Godly resolution. After a resolution has been reached, we seal our lips concerning the individual and the situation. Even if a resolution is not reached, we still refrain from talking about the person and the situation, unless there is a specific, Godly reason to do otherwise. For the most part, the evil speaking that God warns against in this verse is in the category of gossiping or tale-bearing, which are not directed toward resolving an issue or helping a person, but instead seek only to communicate another's faults.
"And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake bath forgiven you." (Ephesians 4:32)
As we read the final verse of this study, let's put our names in it. The phrase "and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another" is what we are to be doing - what we are to be actively engaged in as we minister to each other in the Body of Christ. I know that it is hard at times to be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving when we have been deeply hurt by others. But we cannot hang on to the hurt and emotional pain, we have got to get rid of them if we want to walk for God. Sometimes this may be a slow process, but if we are faithful to renew our minds to the Word of God, God will give us the victory. Of course, it doesn't have to be a slow process. When we move with God, deliverance can come in an instant of time. Many years ago, I was very bitter that somebody I deeply loved, greatly hurt me. And I realized right away what this bitterness was doing to me and I said "I don't want to feel this way." I remember that I leaned on a file cabinet in my office and spoke quietly to God, "Father, I don't want to feel this way. I still love this man and I don't want to feel this bitterness towards him." And then I said, "[Bitterness], be gone." And at that moment, it vanished. The awful feeling of bitterness was gone. That's how quick it can be if we want it to.
Praise the Lord that we can exchange bitterness for compassion, hard-heartedness for tenderness, hatred for loving kindness, and trust for suspicion. Thank God that our hearts are purified and enlarged as we obey His Word, following in the steps of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Copyright Pending 1999
Rev. John F. Shroyer
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review, without permission in writing from the author.
All Scripture references employed in this volume are from the Authorized King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.
This booklet is dedicated to my beautiful wife and friend,
who has faithfully supported me in ministering to God's people.
"Let thy foundation be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth." Proverbs 5:18
I thank my Heavenly Father, the God of all compassion, Who continues to love me and encourage me with the knowledge and understanding of His Word.
I would also like to thank Shawnee Vickery for working so hard to put my teaching on "Compassion" into written form. A big thank you also goes to James Vickery for technical support in desktop publishing and for his support of Shawnee during this project.
And last, but not least, a heaftfelt thanks is given to the Christian Family Fellowship (CFF) ministry and its followers who have given me a forum to speak God's Word and to minister to His people.
About the Author
John F. Shroyer was born in 1942 in New Bremen, Ohio. He was blessed with loving parents who brought him up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. From an early age, God prepared him to teach and to minister to Gods people. He learned to appreciate God and others, to be thankful in all situations and circumstances, to fight for what is good and right, to have compassion and to not be afraid, and to have confidence and trust in Him.
Rev. Shroyer was ordained to the Christian ministry in 1980 by Dr. Victor Paul Wierwille, whose life, teachings, and ministry had profoundly impacted his life. In 1996, Rev. Shroyer and his wife, along with elders Mike and Judy Magel and Frank and Nancy Connerty founded the Christian Family Fellowship (CFF) ministry in Troy, Ohio (now located in Tipp City, Ohio). Rev. Shroyer's "higher education" comes and continues to come from God. This year marks Rev. Shroyer's 32nd year of service in the Christian ministry.