The word “compassion” is used 19 times in the New King James version of the New Testament; in the gospels alone, the word is used 14 times. Add to that several instances that Christ’s compassion is shown without employing the actual word. Compassion is an uncommon trait among the human race, but the Lord displayed compassion during His earthly ministry, and it is certainly an attribute that we should emulate as we lose our minds and let His mind be in us.
Read Matthew 14:13-21. What event immediately precedes this passage? Despite the personal grief Jesus must have felt due to the beheading of John the Baptizer, He had compassion on the multitudes that followed Him. This brings to mind the words of Paul in 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.” In our way of thinking, Jesus certainly could have said, “Leave me alone; I am grieving!” But in His mind, the needs of those who followed Him were of greater importance.
Read Matthew 15:29-38. For three straight days, people came to Jesus for healing. The Lord told His disciples that His compassion prevented Him from sending all of these people away without eating; He was concerned for their physical well-being.
What is even more important than physical needs? Read Matthew 9:35-38. Could the phrase “like sheep having no shepherd” describe much of America today, religiously speaking? So many follow false teachers like Joel Osteen, the Pope, and Benny Hinn, becoming more and more confused and spiritually “weary and scattered,” because the things those men teach cannot be found in the Scriptures. Jesus says, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15). They seem innocent, and say things that sound like they might be Biblical, but they are leading people away from the truth, away from the only hope anyone has of salvation.
What is our attitude toward those who have been misled? Do we think they are stupid, or that they should have known better, or that they will get what they deserve? What is Christ’s attitude toward them? What did Jesus pray for? Are we doing our part to see that prayer answered today?
We all have friends that are not members of the Lord’s church. What are we doing to teach them? Sadly, we also have friends that have fallen away from the faith. What are we doing to reach them? Can you think of anyone who used to sit on the same pew, or in the seat next to you in class, that is now fellowshipping with ungodly denominationalists? Or perhaps they have rejected all forms of “Christian” worship in favor of a deviant lifestyle that is condemned by God’s Word? Have you tried to talk to them about their soul?
What is the Father’s reaction when one of His children comes home? Read Luke 15:11-24. When a person is separated from God, he is dead; when he repents, the Lord welcomes him back and celebrates and makes him alive again. God doesn’t say, “You should have known better!” He shows compassion for His lost children, rejoicing with the decision to make things right.
“Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20). Is this not the ultimate goal of true compassion? It is good to meet the physical needs, and we should look for opportunities to do so (Galatians 6:10), but if spiritual needs are neglected, we have fallen short.
“Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous” (1 Peter 3:8). Coffman writes, “This love is designed to knit the Christian community into a unit having ‘likemindedness,’ having for all of its members a loving, compassionate tenderheartedness, free from the selfishness and self-centeredness which are the distress of the unregenerated; that is why ‘humble-mindedness’ is a prerequisite of all who would participate in such a society.”