We all have a lot of responsibilities in life. As a husband I am to be supportive, trustworthy, a leader, a friend, pure, and a partner for life. As a father I am to be many of the same things, but I am also called to be a disciplinarian (out of love), a parent who looks out for the best interest of the child, and an advocate. As a pastor I am to be a leader, a shepherd, a corrector, a teacher, a counselor, a confidant, and more. But the one thing I have to be to all people is a person who loves. That is my greatest responsibility. I read a Billy Graham quote early today that said, “It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, but my job is to love.” How many times do we forget to love people? I know that there are days that I really struggle to love others. Sometimes they do things that cause me frustration or angst, but if I am honest the majority of times that I am not as loving as I should be are because my heart is not right. The burden falls on me. Any sin that we commit reveals that we have a heart problem (see Mark 7:21-23). I am struck by the number of times the word compassion is used in the Bible, as well as the word love. On two particular occasions in the New Testament it says that Jesus “had compassion on them.” Compassion is a by-product of love. If I don’t love someone, I am not going to have compassion on them. Again this points back to a problem in my heart that I need to talk to God about. Does this mean that we condone everything someone does or approve of their choices? Absolutely not! But it does mean that we try to see their side of the story, and that we get past what we think about the person or their choice to see their pain. Compassion is similar to empathy. I can have compassion on someone even when they make a bad choice, because even though they made a bad choice I still hurt for them because of the consequences they are going through. I will admit, that is not always the easiest thing to do but it is what we are called to do as Christians. So I will suggest a few ways that we can be more compassionate.
First, we must have our heart right. There are two great commandments given. The first is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind (Mt. 22:37). If I’m not loving God the way I should, I’m going to struggle to love those who God loves. The second great command is to love your neighbor as yourself (Mt. 22:39). If I’m struggling to love others the way I’m supposed to, I can almost bet I am not loving God the way I am supposed to. How can I love God, yet hate or dislike those He died for? The simple answer is I can’t. The next way I can be more compassionate is to remember how much God has forgiven me for. Many times our lack of compassion comes from one of two things. Either it is because a person has hurt us in some way. Or we disagree with the choices they are making. Either way, we need to be more forgiving. Ephesians 4:32 tells us, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Notice why we are to forgive, we are to forgive others because God has forgiven you. In dealing with bad choices, have you ever made a bad choice? I can’t count the number of bad choices I’ve made. So who set me up as judge and jury? The answer, no one! Yes they may have made a bad choice, but the consequences of that choice are still real and they are still painful, and we need to empathize with them in their suffering. Finally, if I want to be more compassionate I need to realize that I don’t know the whole story. There is a man who use to be on conservative talk radio by the name of Paul Harvey. He was well known for one thing, “and here’s the rest of the story.” The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13 that “we see through a glass darkly. . .for now we see in part. . .” The truth of the matter is that we only know as much about someone and their story as they tell us. There is so much we don’t know about people, that if we did know about them would probably change how we deal with them and our level of compassion for them. We can only see what is in front of us, but we must realize that a person has a past that is affecting them today, and there may be circumstances in their life that we know nothing about that is affecting them. At the end of the day, our job is to love those that God loves which is everyone. He doesn’t condone everything people do, neither should we, but we should still love them because God loves them and wants a relationship with them. I will end this post with one final question aimed at us Christians. The question is, how many people have ever come to faith in Jesus Christ because of our judgment? (We know the answer to that question, so we must change how we live and how we relate for the Gospel cause and the losts’ sake)
By His grace and through His strength may we live for Him