< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: Our God is Compassionate

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Our God is Compassionate

A humorist once observed: charity is more common than compassion because charity is tax deductible while compassion is merely time-consuming.

This is true for many people but not really good for us. It allows us to do something about needs, but at an arms length. And we’re doing it not quite so sacrificially because we’re getting something out of it.

The author says there’s a difference between cold charity and warmhearted compassion. He says charity is calculated, but compassion is a motivation of the heart that is pure, rich and vital so far as a spiritual experience is concerned.

There’s a new song on Christian radio about Give Me Your Eyes, God. And the words are something about the singer seeing all the people rushing around hurting and in need and why didn’t he see it before? Then asking God to give him God’s eyes. God’s way of looking at things.

That’s what growing as a Christian does for us. We start to see things the way God does and we begin to develop the compassion Jesus always felt for people.

Some of the English equivalents to the Greek and Hebrew words for Compassion in the Bible include: to love, to pity, to show mercy, to suffer along side of. Even a gut feeling.

The Greeks believed that the intestines, the internal organs were the seat of emotions. When they talked about compassion it was like their organs tied up in a knot. So in a sense God has a gut-wrenching concern for His people.

God sent Moses to deliver the Israelites from slavery in Egypt because He said in Exodus 3: 7-10, “I have heard the cry of my people and have been moved with compassion for them. I am going to do something about it by sending you to be their deliverer. His motivation was His desire to show mercy. After they’d been out in the desert a while, the Israelites ceased being grateful and said they were homesick for Egypt and complained all the time and Moses preached them a sermon starting with “hear me, you rebels!”

But, God took Moses aside and told him what He, God, is like. He’s a God of mercy, a God who shows pity, a God of compassion. And Moses was suppose to be that way too because He was God’s spokesperson to the Israelites. Today all Christians are called to be that way because we are all His disciples.

Over and over again in their long history prophets reminded the people of how often God showed mercy on them. Jeremiah recalled that God’s compassions are new every morning, that His faithfulness never changes. (Lamentations 3:23) and it’s the passage where we got the hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”

Later, God sent Jesus to show us His compassion. Jesus reached out to the people. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, brought back the lost. Spoke to their broken society. He gave Himself to them. He was compassion in action. Then He taught the disciples how to be that way.

One of his lessons was the parable of the servant who owed his superior a great deal of money, which he didn’t have to repay. And the superior wiped the ledger clean. But, then the forgiven man went to his friend who owed him a much smaller amount of money and demanded it. Jesus basically taught that this was unacceptable behavior. That those who benefited from the compassion of God ought to begin to discover a compassionate spirit within themselves.

The compassion of God is the very basis of our existence, our redemption and our survival.

So what’s stopping us? Well, some people don’t want to be taken advantage of and they worry about the con artists out there. Others worry about becoming a doormat. Still others feel like people in need are just lazy and to give them a hand out is the worst thing you can do.

But, Jesus simple said, “If you have been shown compassion (and we have) then you need to show it too.”

One of the things that most moved Jesus to tears was when He looked at people and saw how lost they were in spite of their potential. People are created in the image of God and still just don’t get it. If they would ask, God would come and live inside of them and be a refuge and a help. But, they don’t ask.

Compassion starts with an emotional response, then by a commitment to activity. Some of our time, energy and resources will need to be consumed. We can’t just say, “Oh that’s too bad.”

The story of the Good Samaritan was Jesus’ example of how it should be. The Good Samaritan went out of his way for the other man. It’s a longing to meet other people at their point of need in Jesus’ name. It’s wanting to be the means by which God answers their prayers.

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