You do not know God by being compassionate, you become compassionate by knowing God.
How do I know if I am a compassionate person? Well, comparing ourselves among ourselves is not how we determine this. Rather, we should look at what Paul teaches in Colossians about compassion and see how we’re doing.
Jesus Christ is the perfect example of compassion. Mark 6:34 says, “And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.”
There is so much need in our world that giving should be a part of our everyday lives. We give by serving, teaching, helping, and by sharing God’s love found in His Word with those around us. We should not only give to those who may return something to us, but we are encouraged to give to those who may never know us as their benefactor.
By nature, we are self-centered. In order for us to be truly compassionate we need an infusion of God’s divine nature (2Peter 1:4). Do you remember the parable Jesus spoke in Matthew 18: 23-35? He used an example of a king who was owed money, yet the servant was unable to repay him, so he begged for mercy and the king had compassion upon him and forgave him the debt he owed. But that same servant then turned around and went to someone who owed much less to him, and demanded that his borrower repay him everything he owed. The question the king then posed is: Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you? It’s a picture of God’s generous mercy and compassion toward us, yet we often fail to do the same for others.
One way to tell if you are compassionate toward others is seen in your dedication to bringing hope to another soul. This can be done in a variety of ways, it helps to check your audit trail to see how your doing.
Do you carry a lifestyle of debt because of self-consumption? Compare your ongoing spending to how much are you giving out weekly or monthly to others? Following your treasure trail is a good way of determining your compassion level. Money is a primary root that shows what is growing from your tree.
A heart that is free of unforgiveness and bitterness is another. Has God forgiven you, yet you fail to forgive others?
Is your life consumned with your job, your house, your people and your interests? Or do you intentionally care for others with your time, talent and treasure?
Our Father had compassion upon us when we weren’t even aware that we needed it. Think about salvation, how long did it take for you to realize that you desperately needed what God was offering you? Once the reality of your need was revealed, how did you respond?
God is the proactive, compassionate one in our world. When we express compassion to another it’s because He has first extended it to us and then puts His virtue into our hearts. Sometimes we express compassion for our own purposes, at other times God uses us for His divine plan.
Do you remember in Exodus 2:6 where it tells of Pharaoh’s daughter extending compassion toward the baby found in the river? “And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, this is one of the Hebrews’ children.” God placed compassion into the daughter of Pharaoh in order to save Moses’ life.
When we look at God’s compassion toward us, His creation, we see that it is His desire to multiply Himself and His character in our world through our lives. He demonstrated His compassion to us in offering salvation. John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Your response will determine your ability to increase in compassion to others.
So, how do I know if I am a compassionate person? For the believer, we find in Colossians what Paul indicates our response to God’s compassion to us should be.
Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.
5 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. 6 Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. 7 You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. 8 But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. 9 Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. 11 In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.
12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy (compassion), kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. (Colossians 3:1-17).
Wow! That’s a lot right there. For the Christian, this is our script; here we have the goals for our life. It involves putting off our former, sinful ways and taking on the new way of life patterned after Christ. Look at what it says. It may feel impossible to be transformed as Paul writes here, but slowly you will if you allow the Holy Spirit to work in you.
Remember there are two kingdoms that believers are a part of simultaneously: the kingdom of this world and God’s Kingdom. They will never be reconciled prior to Jesus Christ’s coming to judge this world. So, do not become confused as to why there cannot be unity between the two: one is ruled by fallen principalities (Satan and his demons) the other by God (and His angels). We are daily caught in the tension between the two, as Jesus demonstrated and taught us.
We need to exercise wisdom concerning compassion we offer. Even within God’s kingdom, you’ll encounter those who are not in pursuit of what Paul is talking about. So, be careful as you attempt to care for someone as this could become a problem if you are not grounded firmly in scripture. Let me explain.
There are well-meaning, “compassionate” people who serve as enablers (aka codependents). By that I mean they want to do good for everybody, even to the point of being snared into a trap of the enemy (Jude 21-23). They find their fulfillment by taking on another’s responsibility and are used wrongfully. On both sides this becomes a form of idolatry. A very self-centered person, knowingly or not, will latch onto to an enabler. If you find yourself in relationship with someone like this, slow things down, and ask someone to help you discern the relationship. Your “compassion” may be serving to feed a “monster” within that really needs to die (Col. 3:5-6).
I remember twenty years ago while living in Romania, I needed a pastor to help me with compassion as it pertained to beggars on the street. He explained scenarios in which the beggars make much more money by their “trade” than doing ligitimate work each day as the scripture teaches. Rather than humbling themselves and asking for help from God through the church, they deceive others. My “compassion” was fueling an unhealthy begging situation for this person and the upcoming generations. We can see this in our country through our social welfare system and how it has rendered many to become beggars.
As we exercise compassion, let us walk in humility and follow the Master’s pattern in scripture. Discern, learn from scripture, use wisdom to bring glory to God, He alone rightly deserves praise for any good that we have done.