Compassion

Read Luke 6:27-36[i]

The first and greatest commandment, according to the Lord Jesus, is to love the Lord your God with all your heart.  The second commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. 

Luke 6:20-26 paints a picture of what it looks like to love God.  Luke 6:27-36 paints a picture of what it looks like to love your neighbor.

The key word is compassion.  Verse 36 uses the word compassion.  Luke 6:36 says, “You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.”  “Help Word-studies” defines the word used for compassion in this verse as: “compassionate, experiencing deep pity (lamentation) as God has for people who look to Him for help in their difficult situations.”[ii]  The word visceral also describes the response of this kind of compassion.  This points to a deep-down, gut-level response.  In order to have this kind of response, we must identify closely with the circumstances and conditions of another person.  Luke 6:27-36 shows us how we can do this.

Luke 6:27-36 shows us how to love like God loves.

This is only possible in the power of the Holy Spirit.  In our own strength we will fail, and we all do fail in many ways.  It is my prayer that by looking at this scripture we will all be strengthened with grace and empowered to love fully as we are loved.  We will look at three things we can do to help.  These three are taken from the Luke and are:  1) understand, 2) use and 3) undergird.  We will look at each in turn.

First, I must talk more about this being possible in the power of the Holy Spirit.  When Jesus turned to the crowd and opened this subject, He said, “But to you who are willing to listen . . .”  This teaching is not acceptable to everyone.  Just like the gospel, it is foolishness to the person without the Spirit of God. 
1 Corinthians 1:18 says, “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction!”  Jesus used a parable about seeds to explain how some are not willing to receive the truth.  He told how seed that is scattered can fall on hard soil and never even take root.  (This parable of Jesus is found in Luke 8.)  By starting with the invitation “to you who are willing to listen,” Jesus draws attention to the fact that the spiritual truth He is about to share is not an easy one for us as men and women.  It goes against our natural reactions and thinking.

To us who are likely to hold grudges and seek revenge he says, “Love your enemies.” (Luke 6:27)  This teaching divides into three subjects.  The first of which can be classified as understanding.  This is found in verses 27 through 31, and is summarized for us in verse 31. 

I say, love your enemies!  Do good to those who hate you.  28Bless those who curse you.  Pray for those who hurt you.  29If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also.  If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also.  30Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back.  31Do to others as you would like them to do to you.

In order to “do to others as you would like them to do to you,” one must first understand.  All of the commands listed here assume that we are taking a posture of understanding the other person.  The Apostle Paul says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”  (Philippians 2:3-4, NIV)[iii] 

Think of others first.  This is contrary to our human tendency to think of our interests and ourselves.  Looking out for the interests of others is the first step in doing to others as we would like them to do to us.  This requires understanding, understanding what they need, desire or are motivated by.  We cannot assume that what we desire is the same as what another desires.  We cannot assume that what motivates us motivates another.  The first thing we would have others to do for us is to understand.  When Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek when someone slaps us, He shows us how far our understanding of the other person should go.

When we seek to understand and love our neighbor as ourselves, we have a unique opportunity.  This is why I call the second thing Jesus shows us “use.”

Yes, I am suggesting we use others.  Love does not look out for its own interests, and yet look at what Jesus says in Luke 6:35, “Then your reward from heaven will be very great.” This serves as a summary of this second part of loving our neighbor as ourselves found in verses 32 through 34.  These verses say:
32“If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that?  Even sinners love those who love them!  33And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit?  Even sinners do that much!  34And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit?  Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.

Three times Jesus asks, “Why should you get credit.”  The emphasis in this part of the teaching seems to be on this “credit” that Jesus is talking about.  So translations say, “What benefit is that to you?”  The actual word Jesus used is normally translated “grace.”

Grace is favor or a gift.  When we do something good for another we feel good about ourselves.  Therefore, there is benefit.  The world practices this.  Parents can and should do good for their children.  However, this does not go beyond what is natural.  Jesus says, “even sinners do this.”  Jesus gives a call to go beyond what is natural.  Jesus said, “Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.” (Luke 6:35)  Acting like the Most High is going beyond the natural.  In addition, Jesus gives a reason for doing this.  That reason is “storing up treasures in heaven.”  In addition to pointing our thoughts toward credit, Jesus points out a great reward in heaven.

When we look out for our own interests, it is usually in relation to the things of this world.  Jesus taught us in Matthew 6:20-21, “20Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.  21Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

Other people represent our opportunity to store up treasures in heaven.  Actually, I know of no other way.  There is a strange bit of irony here.  The more selfless I am with others here, the more treasures I store up in heaven.  This is why I called this “using others.”  While there may be no reward, thanks or benefit for doing good to our enemies in this life, Jesus says there is great benefit in heaven.  Along with the thought of “using others” to store up treasures in heaven, we should be aware of the temptation that accompanies this.  Jesus said, “Watch out!  Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.”  (Matthew 6:1)

When we do our good deeds for a reward here on earth, we get all the reward we are going to get right here on earth.  The Lord, who knows our hearts, knows when our hearts are set on heavenly values.  The only way to do this is to love God with all our hearts and our neighbor as ourselves.

We have said we should seek to understand and use the opportunity to store up heavenly treasures.  The third thing we can do is undergird

By undergird, I mean support.

The natural thing to do when another hurts us is to seek to hurt that person in return.  Let’s read what Jesus says in Luke 6:35-36:
 35“Love your enemies!  Do good to them.  Lend to them without expecting to be repaid.  Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.  36You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.

Lending without expecting anything in return is doing good.  It is also supporting others in their efforts.  It shows us what “doing unto others as we would have done to ourselves” looks like.

Throughout this passage, Jesus talks about doing good to our enemies.  We are to bless those that curse us.  We are to pray for those who hurt us.  This is not just passively accepting abuse.  It is actively working for the good of someone else.  Jesus gives God as our example.  He says, “You will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.”

God pours out the blessings of food, rain, joy and life on all humanity, even on His enemies.  He invites all humanity to come to Him and enjoy eternal life.  However, there is need for clarification.  He does not leave the guilty unpunished.  If they do not pay for their crimes in this life, they will in the next.  The only way to escape punishment is to come to Jesus and accept the price that He paid.

Seeking the good and undergirding the efforts of others does not mean enabling them or supporting sin and evil.  Leviticus 19:17 says, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.”  (ESV)[iv]  We can see from this that we can show hatred by allowing another to continue to sin.  It is not supportive to lend money to people so that they can continue with destructive patterns.  This is where understanding comes in.  The idea is to seek the other person’s good.

Jesus called for us to be compassionate like God is compassionate.  God causes everything to work together for our good.  Love is exemplified in working for the good of those who have hurt us.  The undergirding is the foundation.  There is no need to support the rotten part of the building, but there is a need to avoid the temptation of pulling the rug out from under those who have hurt us.

Compassion grows with the ability to put ourselves in another’s place.  Think of the mercy and compassion God has shown to us. 

Let us pray that in the power of the Holy Spirt we will be strengthened with grace to love fully as we are loved.  Let us seek to understand others and use every opportunity to store up treasures in heaven and undergird the good in others.



[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation.  Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.  Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188.  All rights reserved.
[ii] http://biblehub.com/greek/3629.htm
[iii] Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
[iv] Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

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