13. Like Christ: In His Compassion.
"Then Jesus said, I have compassion on the multitude."óMatt. 15:32.
"Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow. servant, even as I had compassion on thee?"óMatt. 18:32.
On three different occasions Matthew tells us that our Lord was moved with compassion on the multitude. His whole life was a manifestation of the compassion with which He had looked on the sinner from everlasting, and of the tenderness with which He was moved at the sight of misery and sorrow. He was in this the true reflection of our compassionate God, of the father who, moved with compassion towards his prodigal son, fell on his neck and kissed him.
In this compassion of the Lord Jesus we can see how He did not look upon the will of God He came to do as a duty or an obligation, but had that divine will dwelling within Him as His own, inspiring and ruling all His sentiments and motives. After He had said, "I came from heaven not to do my own will, but the will of Him that sent me," He at once added, "And this is the will of the Father, that of all He hath given me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day." "And this is the will of Him that sent me, that every one which believeth on the Son may have everlasting life." For the Lord Jesus the will of God consisted not in certain things which were forbidden or commanded. No, He had entered into that which truly forms the very heart of Godís will, and that is, that to lost sinners He should give eternal life. Because God Himself is love, His will is that love should have full scope in the salvation of sinners. The Lord Jesus came down to earth in order to manifest and accomplish this will of God. He did not do this as a servant obeying the will of a stranger. In His personal life and all His dispositions He proved that the loving will of His Father to save sinners was His own. Not only His death on Golgotha, but just as much the compassion in which He took and bore the need of all the wretched, and the tenderness of His intercourse with them, was the proof that the Fatherís will had truly become His own. In every way He showed that life was of no value to Him but as the opportunity of doing the will of His Father.
Beloved followers of Christ, who have offered yourselves to imitate Him, let the will of the Father be to you what it was to your Lord. The will of the Father in the mission of His Son was the manifestation and the triumph of divine compassion in the salvation of lost sinners. Jesus could not possibly accomplish this will in any other way than by having and showing this compassion. Godís will is for us what it was for Jesus: the salvation of the perishing. It is impossible for us to fulfil that will otherwise than by having, and bearing about, and showing in our lives, the compassion of our God. The seeking of Godís will must not be only denying ourselves certain things which God forbids, and doing certain works which God commands, but must consist specially in this, that we surrender ourselves to have the same mind and disposition towards sinners as God has, and that we find our pleasure and joy alone in living for this. By the most personal devotion to each poor perishing sinner around us, and by our helping them in compassionate love, we can show that the will of God is become our will. With the compassionate God as our Father, with Christ who was so often moved with compassion as our life, nothing can be more just than the command that the life of every Christian should be one of compassionate love.
Compassion is the spirit of love which is awakened by the sight of need or wretchedness. What abundant occasion is there every day for the practice of this heavenly virtue, and what a need of it in a world so full of misery and sin! Every Christian ought therefore by prayer and practice to cultivate a compassionate heart, as one of the most precious marks of likeness to the blessed Master. Everlasting love longs to give itself to a perishing world, and to find its satisfaction in saving the lost. It seeks for vessels which it may fill with the love of God, and send out among the dying that they may drink and live for ever. It asks hearts to fill with its own tender compassion at the sight of all the need in which sinners live, hearts that will reckon it their highest blessedness, as the dispensers of Godís compassion, to live entirely to bless and save sinners. O my brother, the everlasting compassion which has had mercy on thee calls thee, as one who has obtained mercy, to come and let it fill thee. It will fit thee, in thy compassion on all around, to be a witness to Godís compassionate love.
The opportunity for showing compassion we have all around us. How much there is of temporal want! There are the poor and the sick, widows and orphans, distressed and despondent souls, who need nothing so much as the refreshment a compassionate heart can bring. They live in the midst ot Christians, and sometimes complain that it is as if there are children of the world who have more sympathy than those who are only concerned about their own salvation. O brothers, pray earnestly for a compassionate heart, always on the look-out for an opportunity of doing some work of love, always ready to be an instrument of the divine compassion. It was the compassionate sympathy of Jesus that attracted so many to Him upon earth; that same compassionate tenderness will still, more than anything, draw souls to you and to your Lord. [*See Note.]
And how much of spiritual misery surrounds us on all sides! Here is a poor rich man. There is a foolish, thoughtless youth. There is again a poor drunkard, or a hopeless unfortunate. Or perhaps none of these, but simply people entirely wrapt up in the follies of the world which surround them. How often are words of unloving indifference, or harsh judgment, or slothful hopelessness, heard concerning all these! The compassionate heart is wanting. Compassion looks upon the deepest misery as the place prepared for her by God, and is attacted by it. Compassion never wearies, never gives up hope. Compassion will not allow itself to be rejected, for it is the self-denying love of Christ which inspires it.
The Christian does not confine his compassion to his own circle: he has a large heart. His Lord has shown him the whole heathen world as his field of labour. He seeks to be acquainted with the circumstances of the heathen: he carries their burden on his heart; he is really moved with compassion, and means to help them. Whether the heathenism is near or far off, whether he witnesses it in all its filth and degradation, or only hears of it, compassionate love lives only to accomplish Godís will in saving the perishing.
LIKE CHRIST in His compassion: let this now be our motto. After uttering the parable of the Compassionate Samaritan, who, "moved with compassion," helped the wounded stranger, the Lord said, "Go and do likewise." He is Himself the compassionate Samaritan, who speaks to every one of us whom He has saved, "Go and do likewise." EVEN AS I have done to you, do ye likewise. We, who owe everything to His compassion, who profess ourselves His followers, who walk in His footsteps and bear His image, oh let us exhibit His compassion to the world. We can do it. He lives in us; His Spirit works in us. Let us with much prayer and firm faith look to His example as the sure promise of what we can be. It will be to Him an unspeakable joy, if He finds us prepared for it, not only to show His compassion to us, but through us to the world. And ours will be the unutterable joy of having a Christ-like heart, full of compassion and of great mercy.
O my Lord! my calling is becoming almost too high. In Thy compassionate love, too, I must follow and imitate and reproduce Thy life. In the compassion wherewith I see and help every bodily and spiritual misery, in the gentle, tender love wherewith every sinner feels that I long to bless men, must the world form some idea of Thy compassion. Most merciful One! forgive me that the world has seen so little of it in me. Most mighty Redeemer! let Thy compassion not only save me, but so take hold of me and dwell in me that compassion may be the very breath and joy of my life. May Thy compassion towards me be within me a living fountain of compassion towards others.
Lord Jesus, I know Thou canst only give this on one condition, that I let go my own life and my efforts to keep and sanctify that life, and suffer Thee to live in me, to be my life. Most merciful One, I yield myself to Thee! Thou hast a right to me, Thou alone. There is nothing more precious to me than Thy compassionate countenance; what can be more blessed than to be like Thee!
Lord, here I am. I have faith in Thee, that Thou Thyself wilt teach and fit me to obey Thy word: "Thou shouldest have had compassion, even as I had compassion on thee." In that faith I go out this very day to find in my intercourse with others the opportunity of showing how Thou hast loved me. In that faith it will become the great object of my life to win men to Thee. Amen.
"Evil can only be overcome by the contact of a most personal self-devotion, never by a love that stands at a distance. "Ye are the salt of the earth," Jesus said: ye yourselves just as you are, in the midst of society; in every place and every moment a sanctifying power must flow out from you and your presence. Christ Himself is the life and the light. In all that He does, or says, or suffers, it is always Himself; whoever separates ought from Himself no longer preserves it, it vanishes in his hands. And just this is the radical error of our modern Christianity. Men separate the words and works of Christ from Himself, and so it comes that many, with all they do as Christians, have never found Christ Himself. So there are many who trust in His suffering and merit, who cannot show that they have any real fellowship with Him, or truly follow Him. Christ had His abode not only in Cana of Galilee, but also in Gethsemane and on Calvary. Alas! are there not many who make their boast of the cross, and yet are more afraid of the real cross than they are of the devil? They have so wisely arranged their profession of Christís cross, that no loss to their honour, their goods, or their liberty can ever come from it. Christís true and actual imitation must once again, as in the olden times, become the standard of Christendom. Only and alone in this way will faith again conquer unbelief and superstition. Many are labouring hard at present to prove to a doubting world the inspiration of Holy Scripture, the truth of the words and the life of the Lord Jesus. It is labour in vain, to try and prove by words and argument that which can alone be made known by its own self-evidencing power and its actual presence! Let the proof be given in your deeds, that the spirit of the miracles dwells in you; prove above all in your life, that Jesus Christ is continuing in you His heavenly eternal life; and your words will bring many to believe. But if you are wanting in this demonstration of the Spirit and of power, be not surprised if the world bestow little attention on your eloquent arguments. The hour is come that all Christendom must rise up as one man, and in the power of Christ repeat over again what Christ Himself did to a perishing world. This is the need there is for the imitation of Jesus Christ; this is the only valid proof for the truth of Christianity." - From M. Diemer, Een nieuw boek van de navolging van Jesus Christus.