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How Do We Show Compassion?

One of our readers has asked about showing compassion to those who are unsaved. Are we to be compassionate to them, and, if so, how do we show such compassion, especially in the face of unbelief, opposition, and wickedness?

That we must show compassion to those who are unsaved is clear from Jude, 22-23. The verse is not easy to translate or to understand, but it is referring to our calling to show compassion to the unsaved by "pulling them out of the fire."

Luke 6:35-36 confirms this. It calls us to be merciful to our enemies even as God is merciful to His. Mercy, here, is the same as compassion - the word translated "compassion" in Jude, 22, is the usual NT word for mercy.

The word mercy itself implies that we show it to the unsaved. We show mercy to those who are wretched and miserable and helpless - in the spiritual realm, to those who are lost in the darkness of unbelief and sin.

We should note, however, that though God requires us to show mercy indiscriminately, i.e., to all our enemies, that does not mean that God shows mercy to all His enemies. Nor does Luke 6:36 say that God is kind (merciful) to all without exception.

We must remember that God's mercy is one of His attributes and is, therefore, characterized by all the other attributes. Then it should be clear that God's mercy is ALMIGHTY and does (always) deliver those to whom He shows mercy. His mercy cannot be a powerless and ineffective mercy. It is the mercy of GOD.

But how do we show mercy and compassion to our enemies? That is the more difficult question.

Jude, 22-23 answers that question. We show compassion and mercy by seeking their salvation by all possible means.

This involves witnessing to them. Jude infers that in what he says about "hating even the garment spotted by the flesh." We show such hatred both by our words and by our own holy walk. Peter even says that the unbelieving husband can "without the word be won by the conversation (holy way of life) of the wives."

Jude, too, suggests that our witness, by the grace of God is often effective for their salvation. Thus he writes of pulling them out of the fire, not just trying to pull them out.

We must give that witness however, with kindness. It must be merciful. We need to be warned against trying to shove the gospel down the throats of those who continue unbelieving and unrepentant, against pressuring them, and against harshness.

It is often enough, having spoken to them to them, to be content with backing up that witness by a godly life, a total commitment to God and His truth, and by various deeds of kindness. That is also part of our witness.

Of such deeds of kindness Jesus is thinking in Luke 6. He speaks of doing good and lending, hoping for nothing again. The example Jesus gives elsewhere is that of the good Samaritan (Lk. 10:25-37).

In the parallel passage to Luke 6, Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus also speaks of loving them, blessing them, and praying for them. Doing such things, Jesus says, we will show ourselves to be children of our heavenly Father, who is kind to the unthankful and the unjust - we ourselves. Rev. R. Hanko

We have posted on our web page (prca.org) the audio sermons of our Reformed Witness Hour and have also begun posting each week an audio sermon from Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church. Check it out-and tell others of this new feature!

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Additional Info

  • Volume: 5
  • Issue: 26
Hanko, Ronald

Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)

Ordained: November 1979

Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002; Emeritus October 15, 2017

Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/

Contact Details

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    13823 Clear Lake Rd.
  • City
    Medical Lake
  • State or Province
    WA
  • Zip Code
    99022
  • Country
    United States
  • Mobile
    360-527-6633

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