Developing Our Compassion

Col 3:12-13

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. NKJV

When we exercise compassion toward another we can be like God in at least one way. Compassion is so much associated with God in the Old Testament. Some of the newer versions have translated the word mercy. But I think that compassion is better. "The original word Rachum is very emphatical; it signifies such tenderness as parents have toward their children when their bowels yearn within them." Treasury of David

Ps 86:15 But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth. NKJV

Ps 111:4 He has made His wonderful works to be remembered; The LORD is gracious and full of compassion. NKJV

Ps 112:4 Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness; He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous. NKJV

Ps 145:8-9 The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy. 9 The LORD is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works. NKJV

It is the word used of the daughter of Pharaoh when she saw the infant Moses in the basket at the river. It is the same word used of Joseph when he was overcome with emotion when he sees his full brother Benjamin and also just before he reveals to them that he Joseph.

In the New Testament compassion is the word most often used to describe Jesus' reaction to the multitudes who are as sheep without a shepherd. It is also used of those who are blind, weak, weary, leprous, or on the widow at Nain (Lu 7:13), or the father of the demon possessed boy (Mk 9:22).

It is also used to describe the motivation of the Samaritan to the man who had been overtaken by thieves.

And it is a word used to describe the attitude of the Christian to those around him.

  1. As His children we have been called to be compassionate to one another.
    1. 1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.
      1. Does it seem unnecessary to you that Peter should write these early believers to command them to be compassionate to one another.
      2. One of the things that gets in our way of compassion is the inability to identify with the struggle or condition the person is in.
      3. Another problem we often have is that we feel justified in not having compassion on people by thinking they are getting what they deserve.
        1. Now although that might be true, yet we must never forget that we are counting on getting what we don't deserve from God.
        2. Our call to God is never give me what I got coming but give me mercy, have compassion on me.
    2. In every case where Jesus was moved with compassion for someone, He did something for them.
      1. Jesus always did something for those He had compassion for.
      2. We may not always be able to rescue everyone who has fallen into some grave situation.
      3. But we can still be moved with a deep compassion for them, and in some cases that is all we can do.
      4. But we must do that.
      5. If we do not there is a possibility that we will become hardened to the point that only the greatest disasters touch us or maybe we will not feel anything anymore.
    3. God does not expect us to do what we cannot in this regard but only what we are able.
      1. 2 Cor 8:12 For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.
      2. We will never be able to solve everyone's problems.
      3. But do we care? That is the question.
  2. We are to be compassionate even to those who have gotten themselves into trouble.
    1. In most of the instances of compassion with God, it is used concerning those who have sinned and then as a result of their sin God sent judgment. But when the people return to God to plead for mercy, God then has compassion on the.
      1. Ps 78:38-39 38 But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, And did not destroy them. Yes, many a time He turned His anger away, And did not stir up all His wrath; 39 For He remembered that they were but flesh, A breath that passes away and does not come again. NKJV
      2. Lam 3:22-32 22 Through the LORD's mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. 24 "The LORD is my portion," says my soul,"Therefore I hope in Him!" 25 The LORD is good to those who wait for Him,To the soul who seeks Him. 26 It is good that one should hope and wait quietly For the salvation of the LORD. 27 It is good for a man to bear The yoke in his youth. 28 Let him sit alone and keep silent, Because God has laid it on him; 29 Let him put his mouth in the dust -- There may yet be hope. 30 Let him give his cheek to the one who strikes him, And be full of reproach. 31 For the Lord will not cast off forever. 32 Though He causes grief, Yet He will show compassion According to the multitude of His mercies. NKJV
      3. Now when you understand who Jeremiah was and what he had been through in the writing of Lamentations you see that God is compassionate to all those who call upon Him.
  3. God has called us to compassion as a primary responsibility.
    1. Hos 6:6 For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. NKJV
      1. Jesus Himself quoted this verse in criticizing the Pharisees of His day.
    2. Mic 6:8 He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? NKJV
      1. I think that what God is telling us here is that all service, sacrifice and worship on our part is void if we will not have compassion on others.
  4. Examples
    1. David and Mephibosheth
      1. 2 Sam 9:3-13 3 Then the king said, "Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, to whom I may show the kindness of God?" And Ziba said to the king, "There is still a son of Jonathan who is lame in his feet." 4 So the king said to him, "Where is he?" And Ziba said to the king, "Indeed he is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, in Lo Debar." 5 Then King David sent and brought him out of the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, from Lo Debar. 6 Now when Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, had come to David, he fell on his face and prostrated himself. Then David said, "Mephibosheth?" And he answered, "Here is your servant!" 7 So David said to him, "Do not fear, for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father's sake, and will restore to you all the land of Saul your grandfather; and you shall eat bread at my table continually." 8 Then he bowed himself, and said, "What is your servant, that you should look upon such a dead dog as I?" 9 And the king called to Ziba, Saul's servant, and said to him,"I have given to your master's son all that belonged to Saul and to all his house. 10 You therefore, and your sons and your servants, shall work the land for him, and you shall bring in the harvest, that your master's son may have food to eat. But Mephibosheth your master's son shall eat bread at my table always." Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. 11 Then Ziba said to the king, "According to all that my lord the king has commanded his servant, so will your servant do." "As for Mephibosheth," said the king, "he shall eat at my table like one of the king's sons." 12 Mephibosheth had a young son whose name was Micha. And all who dwelt in the house of Ziba were servants of Mephibosheth. 13 So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem, for he ate continually at the king's table. And he was lame in both his feet. NKJV
      2. Think of some reasons to forget about Jonathan's descendants.
        1. If the tables were turned Mephibosheth would have put David to death.
        2. As the heir of Saul he was getting what he deserved.
        3. We can always think of reasons not to be compassionate.
    2. The Samaritan
      1. Luke 10:30-36 30 Then Jesus answered and said: "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.' 36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?" NKJV
      2. Look at all the reasons why he should not have been compassionate to the Jew that fell among thieves.
        1. He would probably not done the same for him.
        2. He didn't owe him anything.

Jesus has laid down a perfect example of how we are to view others. Think about Brooklyn Tabernacle with their outreach to the drug addicts and prostitutes of Brooklyn. What is God calling us to do? To have mercy and not sacrifice.

This message was preached at FBC Toulon, by Albert Harmon. See it at  



Compassion, literally a feeling with and for others, is a fundamental and distinctive quality of the Biblical conception of God, and to its prominence the world owes more than words can express. (1) It lay at the foundation of Israel's faith in Yahweh. For it was out of His compassion that He, by a marvelous act of power, delivered them from Egyptian bondage and called them to be His own people. Nothing, therefore, is more prominent in the Old Testament than the ascription of compassion, pity, mercy, etc., to God; the people may be said to have gloried in it. It is summed up in such sayings as that of the great declaration in Ex 34:6: "Yahweh-a God full of compassion (the American Standard Revised Version merciful) and gracious" (compare Ps 78:38; 86:15; 111:4; 112:4; 145:8; Lam 3:22, "His compassions fail not"). And, because this was the character of their God, the prophets declared that compassion was an essential requirement on the part of members of the community (Hos 6:6; Mic 6:8; compare Prov 19:17). (2) In Jesus Christ, in whom God was "manifest in the flesh," compassion was an outstanding feature (Matt 9:36; 14:14, etc.) and He taught that it ought to be extended, not to friends and neighbors only, but to all without exception, even to enemies (Matt 5:43-48; Luke 10:30-37).

The God of the New Testament, the Father of men, is most clearly revealed as "a God full of compassion." It extends to the whole human race, for which He effected not merely a temporal, but a spiritual and eternal, deliverance, giving up His own Son to the death of the cross in order to save us from the worst bondage of sin, with its consequences; seeking thereby to gain a new, wider people for Himself, still more devoted, more filled with and expressive of His own Spirit. Therefore all who know the God and Father of Christ, and who call themselves His children, must necessarily cultivate compassion and show mercy, "even as he is merciful." Hence, the many apostolic injunctions to that effect (Eph 4:32; Col 3:12; James 1:27; 1 John 3:17, etc.). Christianity may be said to be distinctively the religion of Compassion. W. L. WALKER (from International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1996 by Biblesoft)

Ex 34:5-7

5 Now the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, 7 keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation." NKJV

Matt 9:36-38

36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest." NKJV

Matt 14:14 And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick. NKJV

Matt 5:43-48

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. NKJV

Eph 4: 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. NKJV

James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. NKJV

1 John 3:16-17 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? NKJV

Zech 7:8-14 Then the word of the LORD came to Zechariah, saying, 9 "Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'Execute true justice, Show mercy and compassion Everyone to his brother. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, The alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart Against his brother.' 11 But they refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear. 12 Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the LORD of hosts. 13 Therefore it happened, that just as He proclaimed and they would not hear, so they called out and I would not listen," says the LORD of hosts. 14 "But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations which they had not known. Thus the land became desolate after them, so that no one passed through or returned; for they made the pleasant land desolate." NKJV

John 8:2 Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. 3Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, 4they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. 5Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?" 6This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.

7So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." 8And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, "Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?"

11She said, "No one, Lord."

And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more."

1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.

God is compassionate

Rom 9:15 He is sovereign in His compassion

Deut. 13:17 it is tied to obedience

30:3 it is tied to seeking God.

2 Chron 30:9 if we turn to Him when we are disciplined, then He will hve compassion on us.

36:15 It is God's compassion for us that sends us warnings of our sin before He sends judgment.

Lam 3:22 Even in the midst of terrible judgment yet Jeremiah said that God's compassions fail not.

3:32 Though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His tender mercies

Mic. 7:19 for those who repent, God will have compassion and will cast their sins into the depths of the sea.

Hebrews 5:2 He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness.

Hebrews 10:34 for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.

Jude 1:22 And on some have compassion, making a distinction; 23 but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.