CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

In the Name of Compassion

Jun 20, 2010

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.

[1263 words]

9 Responses to In the Name of Compassion

  • Hi Bill.
    I like how the prophet Samuel acted when Agag king of the Amalekites was sulking, plotting and pleading for compassion.
    Before you could say Jack Robinson, Samuel whipped his sword out and Agag’s head was lying in the dust on the ground. God had already said He was against the Amalekites “forever.”
    And what about Peter, where was his compassion for Ananias and Sapphira? If we had been there we would have been patting them on the backs and recommending them for a position on the board.
    God’s ways are not our ways, and we are about to discover that as the severity and confusion of the last days come upon us.
    The most compassionate thing we can do is to be genuinely led of the Spirit to love what God loves and to hate what God hates and put our own natural sentimentality aside.
    Rob Withall

  • Right on, Bill.

    Every time I hear some silly appeal to tolerance or compassion, I think of Jesus confronting the scribes and Pharisees: “WOE to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!”

    John Angelico

  • Bill, thanks for this line “the throw away word compassion today covers a multitude of sins”.
    Stan Fishley

  • Thanks for the pointed article Bill.

    I think we should probably stop calling people who engage in such things christians though, as it seems many of them are not. They seem to have forsaken the Gospel and traded it for something that tickles their fancy. They use the “gloss” of christianity to work towards whatever end they have decided to make into their new god. We shouldn’t let them do it anymore.

    Worse yet, to say to a homosexual, “I accept and approve of what you do” (you used the example above, but cite any sin you like) is not to have “compassion” for them, it is to hate them. I know “hate” is a strong term, but what else can it be.

    Would it be “loving” and “compassionate” to say to another person, “lets celebrate and accept and rejoice in the brain tumour you have”? To celebrate and approve of a persons sin is the same thing, and to regard doing so as anything but the foulest act of hatred towards a person is to short change the reality of the action.

    Jason Rennie

  • Thanks Jason

    Yes the Scriptures are full of such strong language, eg, Psalm 97:10: “Let those who love the LORD hate evil”. But we would rather love the sin, and thereby hate the Lord.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • In Exodus 34:6-7 God spells out his name, nature and goodness in the earlier section. There He is seen as compassionate, gracious, loving, merciful, faithful and forgiving – what we could call His attractive attributes. But in the latter section He is shown as the one who will not stand for continuance in unrighteousness and injustice. Here we see that God wants us to live a certain way, and will punish if we stray from His law – the manifestation of His will and purposes.

    If God’s attractive attributes are separated from from His righteousness and justice, we do not have the Creator, but a Santa Claus figure. Indeed, without righteousness and justice there is no objective goodness, no sin, and no salvation.

    Jesus got the balance right when – in dealing with the woman caught in adultery – He showed God’s mercy and compassion in not condemning her; but then told her to sin no more (John 8:1-11). Paul adds in Romans 2:4 that we should understand that the mercy of God is meant to lead us to repentance.

    In the absence of God’s righteousness, God’s love and compassion are misapplied, as we see in laws that allow abortion, surrogacy, and same-sex ‘love’. Euthanasia and paedophilia are only a stone’s throw away because the underlying thesis – compassion and love – only needs consent and enough ‘compassionate’ politicians to complete the circle.

    How to overturn this? Make disciples! Urgently!

    Geoffrey Bullock

  • Liberal Christians and human rights devotees often quote the Golden rule: Do the good to others that you would have them do to you and negatively: Don’t do the bad to others what you would not have them do to you.” Indeed they are quick to point out that this is not a uniquely Christian rule but is found in all faiths and philosophies. But they abuse Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31 and Luke 10:25-28.Christ never described this as a golden rule.

    It is not the thing that we must follow above all else, without first asking how goodness and badness are defined and more importantly who is it who does the defining? It certainly is not Ghandi or Confucius

    C.S. Lewis in chapter 5 of Mere Christianity says, “The Moral Law does not give us any grounds for thinking that God is “good” in the sense of being indulgent, or soft, or sympathetic. There is nothing indulgent about the Moral Law. It is as hard as nails. It tells you to do the straight thing and it does not seem to care how painful, or dangerous, or difficult it is to do… For the trouble is that one part of you is on His side and really agrees with His disapproval of human greed and trickery and exploitation. You may want Him to make an exception in your own case, to let you off this one time; but you know at bottom that unless the power behind the world really and unalterably detests that sort of behaviour, then He cannot be good. On the other hand, we know that if there does exist an absolute goodness it must hate most of what we do. That is the terrible fix we are in. If the universe is not governed by an absolute goodness, then all our efforts are in the long run hopeless. But if it is, then we are making ourselves enemies to that goodness every day, and are not in the least likely to do any better tomorrow, and so our case is hopeless again. We cannot do without it and we cannot do with it. God is the only comfort, He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies.”

    Humanists and liberal Christians render Psalm 51 as utterly meaningless: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place…” and so on.

    David Skinner, UK

  • Yes Bill, soon we will be asked to have “compassion” for the poor paedophile oppressed minority. They are of course “born that way” and children like their attentions. Any research to the contrary is biased since not conducted by paedophiles. They can all vote Greens and work together for pervert paradise with Peter Singer for president.
    Sorry to be so sarcastic over something so desperately sad. The world has lost the sense of sin so evil prevails on many fronts.
    Anna Cook

  • The golden rule, or the commandment to love our neighbours as ourselves is only the second law, the first one is to love God with all our heart soul mind and strength. We cannot do the second right without first being willing to do the first. Only when we love God first can we love man, whom God has made, properly.
    Blessings
    Ursula Bennett

Leave a Reply