Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you – Ephesians 4:32
The epistle of Ephesians was written by the apostle Paul to the church in Ephesus while imprisoned in Rome. In the face of hostility and persecution, Paul frequently reminds his audience that those who belong to Christ must live their lives in a different manner, one worthy of their calling (Ephesians 4:22-24). He also reminds the Ephesians of their boundless blessings in Christ. Why? Because as believers they (and we) are not immune to anger, bitterness, and slander (Ephesians 4:31). One does not have to step out of the confines of the body of Christ to witness these sinful behaviors and attitudes amongst our fellow brothers and sisters. Thus, Paul instructs His audience to put off the “old self” full of anger, bitterness, falsehood, corrupt talk, and malice. Rather, put on the “new self” created after the likeness of God and extend compassion and forgiveness to one another (Ephesians 4:32).
To be compassionate means to be tenderhearted and extends beyond mere feelings of preference or devotion. To extend compassion implies that one is actively working to provide comfort and healing to another individual who is suffering, distressed, or experiencing a need. Strong’s Concordance describes compassion as “to be moved in the inward parts (bowels).” While this might sound like an odd description, the bowels were considered to be the seat of one’s emotions. Have you ever felt so overcome with emotion for the plight of another individual that a physical response occurred in the pit of your stomach?
The words and actions of Jesus Christ in the Gospels make evident His concern for others and immense desire to alleviate their sufferings. His abounding compassion for the sick, the distressed, the sinner, and even those who openly despised Him astounded those who walked closely with Him during His earthly ministry. As I have pondered this attribute of Jesus Christ over the past year, I have been both humbled and convicted at my failure to perceive what is taking place in the lives of those around me and my failure to act. It is very difficult during this time of isolation and reduced social activity to connect and remain rooted in community. What is even more difficult is to notice what is taking place in the lives of those around me and to desire to meet their needs.
The past year has been stressful for a vast number of individuals extending across the globe. Even now, millions of individuals are suffering distress, confusion, unemployment, loss, loneliness, sickness, and anxiety. Fear of the unknown has slowly become more of a plague on society than COVID. This plague is overwhelming believers and unbelievers alike; no one is immune. The broken condition of the world and life’s circumstances have overwhelmed humanity like a tidal wave and brought out the best and worst in both believers and unbelievers. However, as believers in Christ Jesus, we have been called to live differently and to extend the same compassion and forgiveness to those around us that we received from our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.
What’s your initial response when being pressed by opposition and antagonized for your beliefs? Jesus was oppressed and afflicted, yet did not open His mouth (Isaiah 53:7), He remained compassionate as His hour on the cross drew near. How do you respond when your health has been compromised? Jesus suffered immense physical pain, and still, He remained compassionate as He bore the weight of the cross (Isaiah 53:4-5). How do you treat others who have offended, rejected, or sinned against you? While on the cross, Jesus was characterized by compassion as He cried out to His Father to forgive the very ones who were afflicting Him (Luke 23:34). Jesus’ eyes were never focused inward, but fixed upward towards His Father and thus towards the needs of others. Towards man’s greatest need…a Savior.
Just as Paul beautifully exhorted the Ephesians to live differently and to extend compassion and forgiveness to those around them, consider how you can exhort those within your sphere of influence. How can you extend compassion to the lost, hurting, and angry multitude surrounding you? Ladies, our God is One who is full of compassion and sympathetic to the suffering of His people. He is aware of our afflictions and looks on us with a desire to alleviate our distress and to extend peace. God’s immeasurable concern for you compels Him to act and not idly sit by while you experience the effects of this broken world. In the same way, neither should we be complacent when we recognize the needs of those around us. The need for comfort. Hope. Encouragement. A meal. A smile. A simple, “Hello, how are you?” Let us daily shed our filthy rags of bitterness, complacency, anger, and callousness. Rather, let us adorn ourselves with the beautiful garment of righteousness that Jesus Christ has graciously extended to us and be compassionate towards one another.
“As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:12).