October 3-4, 2009
Compassion, Part One
by Charles R. Swindoll
It was one of those backhanded compliments. The kind that makes one pause, think, then respond, rather than gush out a quick "Hey, thanks."
The guy had listened to me talk during several sessions at a pastor's conference. We had not met before, so all he knew about me was what he'd heard in days gone by: Ex-Marine . . . Texan by birth . . . schooled in an ultraconservative (dispensational!) seminary . . . committed to biblical exposition . . . noncharismatic . . . premil . . . pretrib . . . pro this . . . anti that. You know how all those scary labels go.
I really think he expected your basic, squeaky clean preacher: dark suit; white shirt (buttoned-down collar); tight-knot tie; scuffed, black, wing-tip cowboy boots; pocket stuffed full of tracts; a big Ryrie Study Bible (King James Version, of course); deep frown, thunderous shouts; and a rather large fist flailing away in midair.
Since that's not what he got, he was thrown a low curve over the inside corner of the pulpit. Finally, toward the end of the week, he decided to drink a cup of coffee with me and risk saying it straight.
It went something like this: "You don't fit. What's with you? You've got the roots of a fundamentalist, but you don't sound like it. Your theology is narrow but you're not rigid. You take God seriously, but you laugh like there's no tomorrow. You have definite convictions, but you aren't legalistic and demanding."
Then he added, "Even though you're a firm believer in the Bible, you're still having fun, still enjoying life. You've even got some compassion!"
That did it. By then both of us were laughing out loud. A few eyes from other tables flashed us those "Would-you-two-quiet-down!" looks. I often encounter such glares, especially when I'm having fun.
Well, what could I say? The man could've been more severe, but he had me pretty well pegged. It was that last statement, however, that really got me thinking. It woke up with me the next morning. "You've even got some compassion!" As though it was not supposed to be there. In other words, if you're committed to the truth of Scripture, you shouldn't sweat the needs of people. Don't get concerned about people stuff---heartaches; hunger; illness; fractured lives; struggles with insecurities, failures, and grief---because those are only temporal problems, mere horizontal hassles. Leave that to the liberals. Our main job is to give 'em the gospel. Get 'em saved! Don't get sidetracked by their pain and problems. It's conversion we're really interested in, not compassion. Once they're born again and get into the Word, all those other things will solve themselves.
Be honest now. Isn't that the way it usually is? Isn't it a fact that the more conservative one becomes, the less compassionate? I know there are some exceptions, but we're talking about the general rule, not a few exceptions, okay?
I want to know why. Why either-or? Why not both-and? I'd also like to know when. Not just, why can't we be theologically conservative and personally compassionate, but when . . . when did we depart from the biblical model? When did we begin to ignore Christ's care for the needy? When did we stop thinking of how valuable it is to be healing agents, wound wrappers like the good Samaritan? When did we opt for placing more emphasis on being proclaimers and defenders and less on becoming repairers and restorers? When did we decide to strengthen our focus on public condemnation and weaken our involvement in private restoration?
Think it over. We'll talk more about it tomorrow. Until then, a little assignment: Note God's compassion for His people in Jeremiah 31:7-20. Who needs to see this kind of God through your life?
Excerpted from Come Before Winter and Share My Hope, Copyright © 1985, 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.