My daddy loved to go dove hunting. As a child I hated that he killed all those poor little birds. So I hid all the scissors in the house because I knew he would be cutting off their wings as part of cleaning them. Clearly an emotional (and irrational) response from my young, compassionate heart.
It seems it was a pattern for me:
I brought home numerous stray dogs. My mother was not pleased.
Tears flowed at anyone’s sadness or pain—still.
I’ve often stood up for the underdog—a friend being bullied or mistreated.
I can rarely say no to kids selling stuff at my door. (Please don’t spread the word.)
These are natural compassionate responses for me.
But the longer I have walked with the Lord the more I see that compassion is more than an emotional response. It is a deep reality in our God. Look at these examples throughout the Word:
Nehemiah 9:28: “But as soon as they (children of Israel) were at rest, they again did what was evil in your sight. Then you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies so that they ruled over them. And when they cried out to you again, you heard from heaven, and in your compassion you delivered them time after time.”
Psalm 103:8: “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.”
Psalm 145:9: “The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.”
Lamentations 3:22: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.”
Isaiah 49:13: “…the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.”
Matthew 9:36: “When he (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.“
Jesus tells this familiar story of compassion in Luke 10: 29-37: …But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
“But a Samaritan…came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Colossians 3:12: “…as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
“1 Peter 3:88: “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.”
I have become convinced that love, justice and compassion are all connected in the heart of God. Justice is less about punishment and retribution, and more about love, compassion and mercy.
We are called to preach the gospel of love and forgiveness (salvation) and to live it out in justice and compassion.
Slowly God has developed my small compassionate responses to grow a deepening heart of compassion in me. I find myself doing these kinds of things:
Random acts of kindness: Kindly reminding the rude man who wouldn’t make room for a young woman’s bag in the overhead bin that it was shared space and he could accommodate her. He reluctantly agreed.
Holding a free garage “sale” of furniture and clothing my mama left me.
Treating homeless people with respect and generosity, including real conversation.
Standing up for those who are being marginalized, including women in slavery and poverty around the world.
And, oh yes, sponsoring several Compassion kids over the years.
Gratefully, my compassionate Father keeps working on me, in me and through me to pass on His compassionate heart.
What about you? Where do you share God’s compassion?
C2015 Judy Douglass