The Bible teaches us human beings are the crowning act of God. (I’ll pause here to let that sink in). Just think for a moment about the impact of that awe-inspiring statement. Such could not be said of animals or even of the heavenly angels. They are not said to have been made in the image of God. That distinction resides with human beings. Here is what we read the Lord said about mankind: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26).
Shakespeare observed through the title character in Hamlet these words about the impact of God creating human beings after His likeness: “What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! In form and moving how expressive and admirable! In action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a god!”
As beings created in the likeness of God, we honor that feature by mirroring, as best as we can, the qualities inherent in Him. And perhaps chief among these is compassion.
The Bible reveals that God is a God of great compassion. Psalm 111:4 says “that the Lord is gracious and full of compassion.”
Because of compassion, a plan of redemption was set forth following the fall of our first parents.
Because of compassion, the world was not completely destroyed by the Flood of Noah’s day.
Because of compassion, the Israelites were brought out of the land of Egypt.
Because of compassion, Jesus fed the hungry, healed the sick, and raised the dead.
Because of compassion, Christ died at Calvary.
We are to be compassionate people, following after the compassion of God.
To paraphrase William Bennett, compassion is a virtue that takes seriously the reality of other persons, their lives, their emotions, as well as their external circumstances.
One of the more touching stories in the Bible is that of Moses in the early days of his life. Though a mad Pharaoh had decreed that all male Hebrew children die, the Egyptian midwives would not kill the babies. When Moses was born he was hidden in secret for three months. But then the time came when his mother and father grew afraid that the cruel Egyptians would come to the home and find him. Going down to the river, mother gathered bulrushes. These sturdy watery plants she wove into a basket, or ark, and covered it with mud and pitch to make it watertight.
Baby Moses was taken and placed carefully, gently into the ark of safety. The ark was hid in the rushes on the edge of the river. Little Miriam, the sister of Moses, stood afar off and kept watch to see what would happen to the child.
The waiting was not long for in the providence of the Lord the daughter of Pharaoh and her maiden came down to the river to bathe. As the princess walked along the riverside she saw the ark floating in the water. That was curious. She sent her maidens to bring the ark to her. She opened the rushes and the child suddenly smiled and stretched out arms to her. The princess lifted the baby from the ark and held him close to her heart. As she looked into the face of the child, she was filled with love and pity for the beautiful boy.
“This is one of the Hebrew children” she said. “Some desperate mother hid him here. He is a marvelous child; I will take him and bring him up as my own son.”
Just then the little sister Miriam had an inspired thought. Having heard what the princess said she was filled with joy. “Shall I go and call a nurse of the Hebrew women that she may nurse the child for thee?”
The princess smiled. Perhaps she even knew. “Go, child,” she said. “That is a wonderful idea.”
The little girl hastened back to the house breathless with excitement. A moment of compassion had turned into a lifetime of mercy. Trembling with joy and wonderment, the mother of Moses hurried to the princess, and the child was placed into the arms of his own mother. “Nurse this child for me and I will give thee wages,” said the princess. “His name shall be called Moses, because I drew him out of the water.” So, loved and nurtured by his own mother, Moses grew up in the palace of the king, and was treated as the son of the princess.
Compassion lies in the power of both the mighty and the weak. Kindness is not a feeble virtue but a compelling demonstration of all that is good and moral in humanity. In so far as a Christian has compassion, he or she shall speak kindly to all others, seek the salvation of souls, and pray earnestly—and often—for God’s mercy upon the many.
Compassion is the mark of a true Christian, and it must be worn visibly for the world to see.