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
And from then on, I'm probably going to need a lot
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
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
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
"... 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;
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
"Teach me thy way, O LORD;
I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy
I will praise thee, O Lord my
God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name
for evermore." (Psalm
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
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
"He hath made his wonderful
works to be remembered: the LORD is gracious
and full of compassion." (Psalm
"unto the upright there
ariseth light in the darkness: he
is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous." (Psalm
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
"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 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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
"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
But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where
he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on
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
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
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
"And as soon as he had
spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him,
and he was cleansed." (Mark
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
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
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
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
And be renewed In the spirit of your mind;
And that ye put on the new man
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
"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
Neither give place to the devil." (Ephesians
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.