Join me as I wrestle with those hard questions that come up and pull at our hearts. The “What if…” series is a weekly journey into the process of refinement that occurs when we seek hard after Him. I’d love to have you join me as I look at the ideas that are presented right in His Word for use to reason together and find Him. ( Is. 1:18)
And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted) forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you.
~ Ephesians 4:32 ( amp)
This week the question that keeps coming back to me is this:
- What if compassion spilled into mercy and our presence was mistaken as visit from heaven?
Well, let me start with the word compassion before we go any farther.
One definition of the word compassion is the acute and deep understanding of the pain, suffering or troubles of another person along with a passionate desire to relieve them of their burden. Alternately, the word mercy describes the act of forgiveness and kind-hearted action which is within one’s ability to bestow upon another.
Reading through the gospels, especially Matthew and Mark, I was completely amazed at the number of times the word compassion is used in scripture. Nearly every time that Jesus performed a miracle of healing, deliverance, abundance, or restoration the action was one preceded by a compassionate empathy towards a suffering person. The word which is most often used, in the Greek, to represent compassion here is splanchinoizomai. Actually derived from the word spleen, meaning pity or sympathy, the technical derivation stems from the depth of one’s inward feeling or the bowels of sincere affection and tender mercy which moves a person to act.
( Read just a few examples of the actions of compassion towards mercy by Jesus in Matthew 6:34, 9:36-38, and Mark 9:22, Luke 7:13)
Two parables which represent the compassion of one for another are found in the story of The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) and The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). Both are meant to make us think about the motive behind our actions. Both are meant to make us consider how we would behave in a given situation. I want to challenge you to read these 2 stories and consider all sides of the parable presented.
- Can you identify with any of the characters?
- Can you see yourself in their shoes?
- Can you see the example of compassion spilling into mercy?
- Can you feel the heartbeat of God?
His heart beats fully to the rhythmic pounding of love’s cadence.
When I ask these questions, I realize just how easy it is for me to be unwilling to bend towards compassion, thinking I am right and qualified to pass judgment, when I really need to extend mercy. It actually makes me cringe, because in reality, I am just as much in need of His mercy, generated by compassion, as the next person. Sin is sin, it separates us from God; Jesus came to save the sinner, and I am chief of them all. ( 1 Timothy 1:15)
Humility is tied to the awareness of our need of a savior. Our reality collides with grace and we know that we are without an argument before a Holy and just God. But His reality colliding with mercy extends compassionate love upon a fallen creation yearning and seeking for hope.
The promise of mercy, which is for each of us to discover with every new day ( Lam 3:23), is a seal and a guarantee of His heart’s desire for us to follow His example of grace and love.
Grace should be easy to give away.
I confess that sometimes it is much easier for me to give grace to those who are unaware of the truth of God’s Word, than I am with those who have accepted the gift of salvation. As sad as that is to say, I have found that where I am falling short on the mark of grace, more often than not, is in relation to my brothers and sisters In Christ. While we truly need to hold one another accountable before God, we are not called to injure and offend each other in a way that leaves a scar that does not heal. Yet, that is exactly what happens. The scars of the church seem to fester and grow deeper rather than scab over and heal to leave perhaps a small mark as reminder of the wound. The wounds believers tend to leave never fully get the chance to heal because we are consistently inflicting each other with the barbed wires that have not been pruned by grace.
I was challenged by the verse in Matthew 25:31-46 regarding serving others as if we were serving Christ.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you brought Me together with yourselves and welcomed and entertained me and lodged Me. I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me with help and ministering care. I was in prison and you came to see Me.” – Matthew 25:35-36
After reading this passage I often find myself asking, like those in the passage did, “ When did I do this Lord?”
Except unlike the passage, I am really asking, “.. when have I done this? Please show me how I can do this and honor you well.“, till it became a prayer of my heart. Faithful as He is, He began to lay upon my heart a deep and abiding compassion, not just for the lost outside of the church, but the lost within the church.
If we are His, we should be extending hope to everyone, especially the Body of Christ.
As the Body of Christ we should be extending grace and compassion to one another as well as those who have no knowledge of the gift of grace and salvation. There is a song by Casting Crowns called, “If We are the Body”. The chorus of the song speaks to my heart with words that are poignant and true, reflecting deeply this concept of spilling forward compassion as mercy.
“If we are the body, why aren’t His arms reaching?
Why aren’t His hands healing?
Why aren’t His words teaching?
Why aren’t His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way?”
Located at the end of the verse is an admonition which gets me every time, “ Jesus paid much too high a price for us to pick and choose who should come and we are the Body of Christ..Jesus is the way”
What if we looked at the words of Scripture and applied them to our lives? I am certain that the arms would be reaching, the hands would be healing, our words would be teaching and our feet would be going. All to show the way to God.
- I should be the one who extends the grace to the heart which is broken, because God’s Word says that He is near to the broken-hearted.(Ps 34:18) If that is true, then those who are hurting ( both in the church and outside) are resting in His presence and don’t always know it.
- I could be the one who lends a tissue to wipe a tear, because God’s Word says that He actually collects our tears in a bottle.(Psalm 56:8) If that is true, then those tears are precious to the Lord and should be to me also.
- I ought to be one to feed the hungry a dose of encouragement in the form of sustenance, because God’s Word says we are to feed His children and share out of our abundance.(1 Peter 5:2) If that is true then all I have is not my own.
- I need to be the one who visits the prisoner who is lonely and scared, because God’s Word reminds us that He came to set at liberty those who are bound.(Is 61:1) If that is true, then it isn’t my job to add one more burden to their already heavy load.
- I hope to be the one who gives lodging and assistance to the weary pilgrim travelling onward, because God’s word reminds us to walk together lifting one another up. ( Eccl. 4:9) If that is true, there is no need for me to enlighten them of their faults but to encourage them in their gifts.
More than anything I want to begin to see right in front of me, clearly, the needs of the traveler, the invalid, the prisoner, the hungry. To see those who are desperate for a drink of the living water, and dispense His promises in abundance. To know that it isn’t mere food they need, but the bread of life. Start with the practical, but bring alongside the eternal hope bound in the Cross.
It is at the foot of the Cross where mercy meets truth and compassion spilled out for everyone.
All of this points me back to the realization that without the Cross, mercy and truth are not intertwined and the fullness of grace would not be realized. Because of the sacrifice, I can walk this walk in faith, secure that He is with me, perfecting me and working out for good each instance in the lives of all those whose hearts are steadfast towards Him. ( Phil 1:6; Rom 8:28) And like I shared in the previous post about spending all I am for God, I can make each encounter a deposit of the blessing He has bestowed, expecting abundant harvest for the Kingdom of God.
So, I am going ask you today, What if compassion spilled into mercy, would you leave the fingerprint of heaven upon the heart of the desperate? Even if it was your neighbor? Your brother? Your sister? The person next to you in the pew? And the speaker of His Truth?
We are pretty good at offering grace to the one who is unlearned of the gospel truth that Jesus came to save, but we often forget the log settled in our own eye when we measure grace unto the Body of Christ.
Compassion looks like a visitation from the heart of heaven.
In compassion, we reassure one another that mercy is for each of us, because we are all sinners in need of His atoning grace. In mercy we exemplify Christ’s plea to extend the love of God in every area of our lives, lifting one another up and bearing one another’s burdens. In our present, we can manifest HIS presence and bring healing to one another.
I challenge you to read the stories I shared above and identify yourself in the stories. Are you the prodigal or are you the greedy older sibling? Are you the Samaritan or someone who refuses to serve the lowly and the bleeding? Are you serving others as if they are Christ on your doorstep or are you too busy to notice?
Friend.. I just want to assure you that these are questions I am asking myself. I’d love to hear your thoughts as you process some of my meanderings today. Then come back and share them with me and know that I am praying for you!
Praying that His love and compassion will surround you and give you the strength and courage to step out and act in love and mercy so that your present will be mistaken for His presence!
~ Blessings and Prayer