The throw-away term ‘compassion’ today covers a multitude of sins. It seems that any behaviour, lifestyle and belief system can today be justified by simply saying it is the ‘compassionate’ thing to do. We must be compassionate we are told, so we must put up with all sorts of activities that until recently were simply regarded as sinful and wrong.
Indeed, it gets worse. We are told to accept and embrace everything, not only because it is compassionate, but because Jesus would. Every trendy and politically correct action and attitude can now be promoted by progressive Christians by simply claiming Jesus would have approved it, or done it.
Thus we are now assured by lefty Christians that Jesus would have supported heroin injecting rooms, prostitution, abortion on demand, homosexuality, and anti-capitalist violence, to name just a few trendy causes. In fact, not only would Jesus support many of these causes, he was probably involved in them. Thus for many of these radical Christians, Jesus was probably a homosexual, a freedom-fighter, an anti-capitalist, a feminist, an anarchist, or a jihadist.
It is amazing what causes and lifestyles can be attributed to Jesus, especially when bracketed with the term compassion. It is obviously the compassionate Jesus thing to do to allow drug use, same-sex marriage, guerrilla warfare and baby-killing.
All of these things I have heard or read myself over the years, and many of them I have documented on this site. Today Jesus is a champion of special rights for homosexuals, and presumably tomorrow Jesus will be an advocate for paedophilia and anti-Christian hate crime laws – all in the name of compassion of course.
With so much use and abuse of the term, it is worth looking at in more detail. The word itself literally means to suffer with. It has to do with sharing in another’s misfortune or hardships. This term, from Latin, is quite similar to the term, from the Greek, sympathy, which means to share in feelings with.
Confining ourselves to the New Testament, how is the term used there? Several Greek verbs and nouns are used. Some famous examples include the following:
Matt 20:34 Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.
Mark 6:34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
Luke 7:13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”
So was Jesus compassionate? Absolutely. But we must not confuse compassion with acceptance of sin, softness about rebellion, or the embrace of that which is wrong. Jesus never countenanced, accepted or affirmed sin, and everywhere told people to renounce and repent of their sin, that they might have forgiveness and newness of life.
It is a false and unbiblical notion of compassion which conflates it with modern, worldly notions of tolerance and acceptance. Sin is never to be tolerated, and that which God has clearly pronounced to be wrong is never to be celebrated, promoted or endorsed.
Yet we have this happening all the time in some Christian circles. We have believers marching arm and arm with homosexual activists in their pride marches, seeking to express solidarity with them. We have believers seeking to identify with Muslims, atheists and others in the name of some kind of feel-good ecumenism.
We have Christian prayer breakfasts bringing in Muslim imams, giving them equal footing on the platforms. We have Bible Colleges inviting homosexual activists to come in to lecture to the students. We have one example after another of believers completely watering down their faith all in the name of getting along and being compassionate.
Somehow this does not seem to square with the very demanding, very exclusive, and very harsh claims of Christ. There is not much compassion, tolerance or acceptance found in these sorts of remarks:
Matt 7:13-14 Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
Matt 10:34 Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
Mark 8:32-33 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
Mark 13:22-23 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect—if that were possible. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.
Mark 16:14 Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.
Luke 12:56-57 Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time? Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?
There are plenty more of such passages. Jesus could be quite harsh and strong in rebuking others, all the while being loving and compassionate. Love and reproof are not opposites, nor are compassion and rebuke. Sometimes the most loving and compassionate thing to do is to give such a hard word of judgment.
But these passages are not the sort of verses the progressives want to point out. They would rather we forgot about them. They do not fit into their basically secular notions of tolerance and inclusion. They would rather have a Jesus who never confronts sin, demands repentance, or warns of hell to come.
Throughout the Old Testament Yahweh is constantly denouncing Israel for this sort of syncretism and sleeping with the enemy. God will have nothing to do with this sort of behaviour. Israel for example was to eradicate fully all traces of the Canaanites and their pagan, idolatrous and blood-filled religious practices.
There was no talk of showing them compassion, learning from their ways, or seeking to just get along. Elijah did not seek to find common ground with the prophets of Baal. He did not seek an interfaith dialogue with them. He did not seek to march in their pride parades. Instead, he had them put to death.
Today of course the death penalty is reserved for the state, not God’s people. But the same clear principle of separation and holiness is in force. “Come out from among them and be ye separate” as Paul says in 2 Cor 6:17, quoting from Isaiah 52:11.
Because we are all sinners – some of whom saved by grace – we all need the compassion of God and we all need to show compassion. But that never means to excuse sin, coddle sin, endorse sin, or tolerate sin. Sinful activities and lifestyles must be called what they are, and not justified, embraced or promoted.
Indeed, the most compassionate thing we can do for fellow believers is hold each other to God’s standard – perfection. And the most compassionate thing we can do for the lost is remind them how their sin separates them from God, and how repentance and the forsaking of sin is the God-given means by which we can become reunited with God through Christ.