by Eddy Ee
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak at the 5th Annual Four Seas Lectureship. I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to both brother Peter and sister Pooi Fun for doing such a great job in organizing the program. Further, much energy, hours, and efforts have been put forth in editing the manuscripts for this book. Without them, we would not have a complete copy of the lectureship in our hands.
Our loving God has made it clear that only He is the Creator of this wonderful world. But He is also a compassionate God. Most of us would appreciate Him if we would come to know He deals with the world, especially His chosen ones.
Let me define the word “compassion.” Webster defines compassion as “sorrow, or pity for the suffering, or trouble of others, with an urge to help” or “sympathizing deeply.” Cruden’s Complete Concordance says “literally, suffering; having pity or sympathy for another.” The Greek word “oikero” is defined as “having pity, a feeling of distress through the ills of others, to suffer with another, to have mercy.” Paul summarizes the ideal well, “Weep with them that weep” (Romans 12:15).
Let us look at some of the passages which indicate our God is a God of compassion.
“The Lord is gracious and full of compassion” (Psalm 111:4). The Bible says that God is compassionate. But it goes beyond just making the claim. It goes beyond by showing us how God’s compassion is demonstrated. God’s compassion is shown in several ways.
God’s compassion is shown through His character. Compassion is part of His makeup. It is just Who He is. The Psalmist gives us a glimpse of God’s compassionate character, “Thou tallest my wanderings : put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?” (Psalm 56:8). In other words, God is saying, “I am keeping track of all your sorrows. I am collecting all your tears in my bottle. I am recording one in my book.” What a comforting thing to know this about our God. Whatever hurt we experience, God feels it too. Every tear we shed, He stores, keeps, and remembers. Compassion is at the core of who God is. God’s compassion is shown in his character.
Several passages in the Old Testament indicate that God has shown compassion to men. An obvious example is how God delivered the Israelites from the Egyptian bondage (Exodus 13-14). Furthermore, God promised to show His compassion to the nation in future years (Deuteronomy 30:1-3; Jeremiah 12:14-15; Lamentations 3:32).
God also showed compassion on the kingdom of Judah in the days of Zedekiah, but the people rejected Him (2 Chronicles 36:11-16). Because of His rejection, God brought the Chaldeans against Judah (2 Chronicles 36:17-21). This warns us of the danger of rejecting the compassion of God.
God’s compassion is shown through His Son. When you look at Jesus’ life, you cannot miss the compassion that He demonstrated. Compassion was His driving force. He was the greatest compassion-giver. We can read many instances of how He demonstrated His compassionate spirit. We will look at several occasions in the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark and Luke.
Matthew 15:32. Jesus fed the 4,000. Brethren, we are richly blessed with plenty of food. Do we have a storeroom at the building so that we can have food to take to the sick, hungry, and bereaved? Are we taking advantage of these opportunities that God opens up for us?
Matthew 20:34. Jesus had compassion towards blind men. He touched their eyes and they immediately received their sight. Obviously, we cannot restore eye sight miraculously, but we can help people to see better. One of the ways is to send our used eye glasses to our missionaries for distribution. The greatest way to help the blind to see is to teach them the gospel so that they can see the lost condition.
Luke 7:13-14. Jesus had compassion on the widow of Nain when her son died. He told the widow not to weep, and then raise her son from the dead. Brethren, we cannot raise the dead, but we can comfort the bereaved. We can liberate those who are dead in sin by teaching them the Gospel.
Mark 10:14. The disciple rebuked those who brought children to Jesus but He had compassion on the children. There are many children who are abandoned or neglected who would appreciate a caring “big sister,” “big brother,” “adopted parents.” These could provide some financial means to get education, food, or clothing. I am thankful to Jurong members who are willing to help the needy children in Nepal receive their primary or secondary education. We can help these children to renew their vigor, and contribute to their happiness.
Parents need to spend more time with their children at home, especially when they return home from work. When their children want to talk to them, some fathers will chase their children away by saying, “Daddy has no time.” Children are precious, and we are not to neglect them with our precious time. We sometimes misunderstand “quality time” to mean “to set a schedule each week to bring our children out for swimming, for special fast food, and so forth.”
To me, quality time with your child is whenever he needs your time whether to chit chat, to ask you to help him with his home work, or to watch television together. This will build a healthy relationship with your children, and a strong bond that can never be exchanged with time or toys.
Mark 6:34. Jesus was moved with compassion when he saw the multitudes, and began to teach them. If we are like our Lord who possess this kind of compassion towards the lost, we will not hesitate to go out to teach our loved ones, friends, colleagues, and people whom we come into contact socially each day. We have lost our compassion for the Lord. No wonder we are not growing as fast as the first century church.
We are exhorted to be compassionate with our brethren in the family of God (1 Peter 3:8). Obviously, this command has been neglected in our Christian life when there are many conflicts and problems of not being able to get along with each other. It is high time for us to obey this command.
Though we must emphasize that each child of God must cultivate the compassion of God in his daily life, a warning is necessary concerning its misuse. We must never use compassion as an excuse for having a compromising attitude towards God. Sometimes in the name of “compassion,” some would withhold the truth from those who need it lest they be offended. As someone put it bluntly against those who would stand for the truth, “You can attract more flies more with honey than you can with vinegar.” This is true if we are catching flies, but we are talking about saving souls. It is no mark of compassion to neglect or refuse to speak the whole counsel of God whereby one might be saved, whether it is to a brother or an enemy. We know that our Lord was full of compassion but it did not mean that He did not boldly stand up against sin an oppose error. Even Paul’s compassionate spirit did not prevent him for calling Elymas the sorcerer a “child of the devil” (Acts 13:8-10).
May God help us to cultivate this wonderful virtue in our lives as we continue to serve Him no matter what role we play in this life, whether as elders, deacons evangelists, teachers or simply members of the church. May we be able to give the gift of compassion to anyone who needs it regardless of their race, religion, or status in life. Whatever we do in word or deed, we do it to the glory of God. Remember, “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Hebrews 6:10).