The world is cold and cruel in the best of times; on tough days, things only get worse. In this present time, we expect a new age of cynicism and the hardening of hearts. While cutting our own budgets back, or even worrying about the loss of a career, the temptation is to shut out the problems of those who have it worse than we do. Yet this is the very time when the world needs us most of all. What’s the use of a sunny-day Christian? We need devoted followers of Christ who are at their best when the clouds come out.
Someone will say, “That’s all fine and good, but I’m just not feeling it. At this moment, my heart is not abounding and overflowing with love.” That’s to be expected. Don’t worry, the heart of God overflows so magnificently that we need only stand under it and catch the spray…. and a little of that is enough for a miracle. It’s His love the world really needs, after all. “The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.” (Psalms 116:5 NIV)
We also read that “His compassions fail not” (Lamentations 3:22). Notice by the way, that the latter verse comes from a book of lamentations, of all things. Sad times are good times for realizing God’s goodness.
No matter what we face, the abounding love and compassion of God are more than sufficient for us to enjoy our-selves and to share with someone else. The love of abounding compassion is never found within ourselves but only as we are in Christ. The logic of such behavior is never found in the world but only in the Word. Human nature dictates that we act very differently when things go wrong. The flesh (in the apostle Paul’s terminology) encourages us to go inward and look to self. The Spirit encourages us to go out-ward and become all the more loving and forgiving— including forgiving ourselves.
Therefore, when the men and women of Thessalonica are being treated terribly simply for loving and worshipping the one true God, Paul doesn’t pray that they will be stronger in fighting evil. He doesn’t ask God to strike down the oppressors. His prayer is that the people will be abounding in love and compassion. (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13) As Jesus said, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44-45a)
The essence of identifying with someone else is the incarnation—God wrapping Himself in flesh and becoming a man, then taking on our sins at the cross. All that we do in the world should be an echo of what Christ has done on the cross. We love. We are compassionate. We identify with others and their problems, and we take up their crosses for them.
Don’t you think the world needs more of that kind of love? What would happen if we replaced the here-today-gone-tomorrow love of contemporary marriage with the ironclad, unconditional love of 1 Corinthians 13?
God and only God can give us this love. Left to ourselves, we would make a hopeless mess of any difficult relationship. This is why we can’t be too upset at our unbelieving friends who don’t love us unconditionally. Just as we wouldn’t be angry with a blind man for stepping on our toes, we should be nothing but compassionate to people who don’t know Christ.
Sometimes I listen to the news, hear the griping, the complaining, and the whining, and have to stop and remember that all these people don’t know the Jesus we know. There is so much anger, so little forgiveness; so many demands, so little service. I think Longfellow had it right when he wrote, “If we could only read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” It takes godly compassion to live with that outlook.
What God wants from us in the midst of this crisis is compassion– broken heart-compassion that sees the hurts of those around us as an invitation to express God’s love in meaningful acts of kindness. What do you think?
Thoughts from reading “Stay Compassionate” by David Jeremiah (Living with Confidence in a Chaotic World) Ken Darnell