Christians are called to be compassionate. There is no denying that. Colossians 3:12 puts compassion at the head of a list of eight important qualities God’s chosen are to “put on.” Frequently, we see Jesus as a model of compassion (Mat. 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 20:34). The Samaritan in Jesus’ parable is upheld as exemplary for his compassion (Lk. 10:33). Compassion is used to describe God’s dealings with us (Js. 5:11).
The problem can become what the world calls compassion as contrasted with what the Bible means by it. The biblical meaning of the word speaks of the intense emotion of sympathy, even to the point of grief, that leads to the merciful treatment of the object of that compassion. Compassion moved Jesus to heal and feed the crowds. It moved the “Good Samaritan” to treat the wounds and pay for the medical care of the man left for dead. God’s compassion moves Him to forgive us and bless us.
The world’s mistaken notion of compassion too often involves tolerating sin or compromising so as not to hurt the feelings of another. Under the guise of compassion, too many basically “good” people are averse to condemning such sinful behavior as homosexuality, abortion, fornication, adultery, drunkenness, and the list of “such like” things is rather long (cf. Gal. 5:19-21). Whereas the compassionate thing in such a case is to lovingly teach truth rather than validate wickedness, perhaps some are afraid of the negative backlash that comes from a courageous rebuke. Compassion does not enable people to stay in unhealthy moral, ethical, economic, or emotional situations. Compassion calls for sympathy, gentleness, and understanding, but that is not synonymous with endorsing evil. It is antonymous! Jesus was the king of compassion, but He was plainspoken about sin. May we follow in His steps, being loving and merciful while staying true to God’s revealed standard.