Biblical compassion is an attitude and choice that a Christian does in the context of a fallen world. Because the world is fallen, there are people who are hurt, and need our compassion. Because the world is fallen, there are people who will be angered by our faith, and they too need our compassion. One example of this is in my first interaction with one of my neighbors. When he found out that I am a Christian he said, “Oh, you’re a Christian? Well, didn’t you know Constantine re-wrote the whole Bible, and that Jesus got married, and all of his disciples and children moved to Europe?” With a few simple words, I could have ended any future interaction. But I believe Scripture teaches that biblical compassion is three things: something to prepare for, a response of truth to lies, as well a response of pity and patience to hatred. Each of these concepts need to be wedded together if we are to show true, biblical compassion to a lost and dying world. Let’s look at some passages of Scripture to prove this point.
We need to prepare to be compassionate because people will hate us or the God we serve. In 1 John 3:13, the apostle John says, “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.” But we aren’t told simply to expect hatred. We are told to love those who hate us and who hate our God. Jesus commands us, “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44).
One way to love the enemies of God and of His people is to confront lies with the truth. It is unloving to leave a person in ignorance, or to allow them to spew lies that can be addressed kindly and publicly. Paul says, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). Similarly, the apostle Peter tells us, “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15a).
But another way to show compassion to those who hate us is simply to pity the state of their heart, and so be patient with them. Peter adds a note that when we give a reason for our hope, “Yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15b). Our witness to the reality of Christ’s resurrection, and of the hope of salvation, is tragically injured when we respond to animosity with a vengeful tirade. In fact, in 1 Peter 2:15, Peter says that the main way we silence foolish people is simply by “doing good”. Biblical compassion is a hard thing, but a blessed thing. When we show kindness to those who hate us, and soundly and gently respond to their arguments with love, we imitate the example of our Savior. Christ lovingly challenged our hard hearts with His truth. Let us strive to do the same towards others!