Divine Compassion in Christ’s Mission
The Gospel accounts of our Lord’s life allow us to see the perfection of Christ as He walked this earth. One of the spectacular qualities that we see in the Lord is His compassion, which should be a challenge for us all as we are called to be His disciples. Entering the Gospel of Luke, we begin to see the Lord early on in His ministry proclaiming the purpose for which He came:
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” -Luke 4:16-21
Here we see the compassion of the Lord in the very purpose of His coming. Most certainly, God planned and undertook the work of redemption for the glory of His name. Yet, we also see the wonderful compassion of God in that He comes to bring liberty to those who are captive to sin. Truthfully, it is not only that we are captive to sin, but that we as lost sinners rebel against the God of creation increasingly tightening the shackles of slavery to sin upon our own wrists. However, Christ came to set His people free. It is one thing to redeem someone who was forced into slavery, it is something else to redeem someone who desires to be enslaved, which is exactly what the depraved sinner wants. They desire their sin, until they are changed by the Savior (Romans 3:9-20).
Christ’s Compassion During His Ministry
As we come into the ministry of Christ, we see Him physically healing many individuals. One example is in Luke 4:38-41 where He heals Peter’s mother-in-law as well as many with various diseases. He also preached the good news of God’s kingdom to other towns (Luke 4:43). An interesting component of these passages is the reality that the people were astonished because of the manner by which Christ taught with authority (Luke 4:32). In Luke 7:13 it is also said that “he had compassion on her” referencing Christ’s reaction to a widow whose son He would shortly raise from the dead. This brings us to a crucial reality, taking a strong stance on the truth and loving others are both acts of compassion.
If Christ had capitulated in exchanging the message of God for that of the world, it would have been not only a sinful action but also unloving. Because Christ is Himself divine He is perfect. We must realize that compassion and truth are woven together seamlessly. The compassionate love of Christ was most certainly involved in His declaration of the Gospel of the Kingdom so that He would draw many to salvation. No one could deny His compassionate love was also intimately involved in His acts of healing, the casting out of demons, and His raising many of the dead to life. The compassion of Christ in His proclamation of the truth and tender acts of mercy gives us much to ponder in terms of application to our own lives.
Following Christ’s Example
We must cultivate a passion for God’s glory which leads us to proclaim His truth from a heart full of love. As an illustration, the pastor is not called to rebuke sound doctrine just so he can look intelligent in front of the congregation. No, his goal is to protect the flock, yes, but also pray that God would bring the erring person to salvation:
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”
-2 Timothy 2:24-26
Here we clearly see Paul tying the correction of rebuke to a hope of repentance. We see that reality in the life of Christ. Many in our age believe those theologians and pastors who stand for the truth are being hateful in doing so. On the contrary, it would be unloving for them to give into the sinful lies of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Love spurs on a strong commitment to the truth!
A second application that we should draw from the compassion we see in the ministry of the Lord is the reality of His going to help others out of a heart of love. We should be on the lookout for ways we can provide assistance to those in need. This action does not replace the sharing of the Gospel, but we should follow the example of the Lord in that while we help others we seek to proclaim the truth of the kingdom to them. If a church member is sick and in the hospital, it is good for us to go and spend time with them encouraging them and lifting them up in prayer. If a homeless man comes up to us at the gas station with a gas can and asks for us to fill it, we should do so and share the Gospel with him at the same time. Not only should we take these opportunities as they arise, but we should also seek them out. We should strive to find ways to help others and share the truth as we go through life. Whether that be our co-workers, fellow students, church members, or in whatever realm, we should be intentional in this area.
The compassion of our Lord should challenge each one of us to grow in this area. Whether you are a mature believer or someone who was given salvation yesterday, the perfect example of Christ should make us all realize our need for growth. At the same time, we should also understand we have a kind and merciful Lord who gives us the strength we need. So, may we follow Him in this area, as in every other, striving to be increasingly sanctified looking forward to the day we will reign with Him for all eternity. Let us live with hearts full of love for God and others!