In reading through the gospels a while back, I was struck anew by the compassion of Christ.
I proceeded to do a word search on compassion and was almost surprised by what I've found.
The New American Standard version yeilds 92 results to the search "compassion". Of course, not all of these refer to the compassion of God, but also to people begging compassion from God, people extending compassion to others, etc.
If you ask me, one thing that the conservative church has all but lost is compassion.
Many speakers will talk for hours about the unsaved and their impending judgement. I heard recently of a preacher who said "we always hear that we are to love the sinner and hate the sin, but God hates the sinner enough to throw him into hell!" Implying that we should only love those who are currently saved and living the life that we think they should live.
(Side note: Of course, I believe that God is not only loving and compassionate but also just and that there are eternal consequences for those who die without repenting. However, since judgement has not yet occurred, we know not who the saved are or will be. Therefore, we are given the comission to preach to every nation and share the gospel of Christ with everyone.)
All of life is a balance, and I've seen both extreemes, but there is definately an aspect of christianity that you loose when all you do is look at the sin and ignore the hurting, lost sinner.
I know one thing for sure, my life has been changed by a loving God who had compassion on me long before I ever appreciated it. That compassion was shown through his word, but also through people who had the strength to love me where I was and show me truth. They lead me through hard times, and let the Holy Spirit do the work of convicting my sin instead of judging it and pointing it out to me themselves.
The compassion of God has taken some pretty wrecked lives and made them holy, and there is not one person that is beyond the healing touch of God.
As someone who was saved as a child and has been spared may of the burdens that come from living a life apart from Christ, I can be tempted to be self-righteous. But a friend of mine has a very interesting approach to seeing people lost in their sin. Instead of automatically being welled up with pride because "I'm not as bad as that person" she would turn to her children and say "There, but for the grace of God."
Yes, that's so true. We are all there, in the place of the worst sinner, but for the grace of God. That life can be turned around with the compassion of God, often shown through His people.
Here are a few scriptures that jumped out at me as I was doing a word search on compassion, and though they're all wonderful, I especially liked the last one.
Nevertheless, in Your great compassion You did not make an end of them or forsake them, for You are a gracious and compassionate God.
Shout for joy, O heavens! And rejoice, O mountains! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on His afflicted.
"In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, but with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you" says the Lord your Redeemer.
"For the mountains may be removed, and the hills may shake, but my lovingkindness will not be removed from you, and my covenant of peace will not be shaken," says the Lord who has compassion on you.
Isaiah 54:8, 10
"I will sow for her Myself in the land. I wil also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, and I wills ay to those who were not My people, 'You are my people!' and they will say, 'You are my God!' "
But seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.
When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.
When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, "Do not weep." And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt, And He said, "Young man, I say to you, arise!" The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
We count as blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
So there you have it, compassion for the lost souls needing Christ, and for the struggling christians alike is not only a nice thing to do, it's a command.