Sunday, February 12, 2012
Showing Compassion-- Part One
Let me begin with the question that got the ball rolling for me: Do I extend the same compassion to others that was extended to me; not only by Christ, but by His church?
Growing up, my family was a moral family. My parents taught my brother and I the basics of right and wrong and my mom encouraged me to take my troubles to Jesus in prayer, but we weren't practicing Christians necessarily and we definitely were not a churched family. Although we knew about Jesus, we didn't really know Him. We were unsaved. (Happy to say that my parents are now also my brother and sister in Christ!) I can remember many occasions when I'd attend church off and on with friends, that people showed me the compassion and grace that Christ showed those he encountered while on Earth. While it was obvious by my attire (or lack of it), my character, and the company I kept, that I was not walking with Jesus, the people at church still treated me with respect and dignity. They invited me to events, talked to me about my interests, and made me feel like I was part of the family. I credit these compassionate, spirit-filled people for making a big impact on the grounded-in-Christ person that I am today!
(Speaking to Christians here) Most of us come into contact with people, sometimes on a daily basis, who are obviously not walking with Jesus. Maybe they are saved but are just having a really hard time showing it that day---maybe they're living a life that is obviously not centered on Him. There are several reasons why we may choose not to show them compassion. I'll speak to those over the next few days. The one thing we need to remember though is this: we are called to compassion. 1 Peter 3:8-9 instructs us in this way: "Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous, not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing."
When we understand and acknowledge what Christ did for us, we will be compelled to extend that same compassion to others. Consider Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." If Jesus would go so far as to die for us, couldn't we at least try to be a little understanding of those around us who appear to be walking blindly?
There are many things we can do to show compassion to the unsaved around us. Our character, who we are day in and day out, is the biggest testament to Christ. Compassion needs to be a character trait and not something we just put on and off on a whim. In addition to developing a genuine character, we can also:
1. Think before we speak: Proverbs 15:28 says, "The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil." It really pays off to contemplate our words before spewing them out. Words stick around so much longer than actions and reverberate in our memories...they can build up or break down.
2. Let our actions do the speaking: 1 Peter 3: 1-2: "Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear." Now there's a lot in that verse that I won't even go into right now, but the main point is that our actions will speak so much louder than our words when it comes to having integrity and being genuine. People will be drawn to Christ when they see His character embodied in us, His people. This is what it means to be "the body of Christ". We are to be the physical representation of Christ in our words, thoughts and actions.
3. Practice unselfishness & looking out for others: Philippians 2:3-4: "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others." How will my thoughts/actions affect those around me---both Christians and non-Christians---and not only now, but when they're ready to make a decision for Christ? There are people in our lives to whom we may be the only representation of Christ that they will see. I can think of one specific person who is very close to me that does not run with a Christian crowd. I must emulate Christ to this person because I might be the only one who ever will! We must practice what we preach by giving others grace when they do or say things that offend us. A holier-than-thou attitude is one of the biggest turn-offs related to Christians! If we have been a positive and genuine figure in the life of an unbeliever, we may have the opportunity to be the catalyst through which they someday find relationship with God!
Over the course of this study, I'll share some reasons why we Christians are not so quick to offer compassion and grace to the unsaved, as well as share with you how Jesus treated those the Bible calls "sinners". Please leave a comment, if you've got time, and let me know how you've been affected by Christian compassion---either on the giving or receiving end.
This post was published in The Christian Home magazine, Issue #49