Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Colossians 3:12 (ESV)
In response to the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’” (Luke 10:30-35 ESV)
It would seem that the meaning of a compassionate heart has more to do with an attitude than an action. It is an attitude of mercy or pity. It is a heart that bends toward pity and mercy. As demonstrated in the story above a compassionate heart is an attitude that definitely leads to action, but with a proper motive.
A compassionate heart has as its root the character of God. David wrote, As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. (Psalm 103:13 ESV) The psalmist Asaph wrote about God’s dealings with Israel, Yet he, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often and did not stir up all his wrath. (Psalm 78:38 ESV) Jeremiah wrote concerning God, Though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love. (Lamentations 3:32 ESV) God’s love is aptly illustrated by a father’s reaction to a prodigal’s homecoming (Luke 15:20). When we put on a compassionate heart we are clothing ourselves with God likeness.
When Jesus, the unique Son of God, came to earth he exemplified the compassionate heart of his Father. We read in the gospel of Matthew how the Good Shepherd cared for his sheep. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36 ESV) When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. (Matthew 14:14 ESV)
Paul exhorts us as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved to put on compassionate hearts. A compassionate heart is open to the needs of the people around it. A compassionate heart not only recognized but strives to meet those needs whenever possible. John wrote, But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? (1 John 3:17 ESV) And in the final judgment it is the demonstration of a compassionate heart that distinguishes God’s chosen ones from the reprobate (Matthew 25:34-36).
Are you attentive to the needs of those around you? Have you put on a heart of compassion?
Scriptures for meditation: