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Categorized Compassion

When a person lives a worldly life, that person is subject to worldly compassion. Worldly compassion is not an act of love but a tool to be used. The well-known passage of Scripture called “the parable of the lost son” (Luke 15:11-32) teaches us many lessons, one of which is the damage from categorized compassion.

But no one gave him anything.

Luke 15:16

The son took his father’s inheritance while he was still alive and spent all of his money partying. Ending up destitute and at the very bottom of society, he had no money and, due to prejudice, he was in a category unworthy of compassion – he was a Jew outside of Israel or Judea (see v.13).


Worldly compassion provides benevolence to people in socially approved categories, and it is withheld from people who find themselves in classes that society has deemed not deserving compassion. Our world is the same as that of the prodigal son. This is not true for the body of Christ.

To effectively give Christian compassion, we must do so with intentionality. Intentionality means our thoughts, desires, and hopes compel us to seek out opportunities to express Jesus’ love to any person in need.

Great Acts of Compassion

A historian of the early church, Eusebius, recorded in “The Church History” that during the plague,

All day long some of them [the Christians] tended to the dying and to their burial, countless numbers with no one to care for them. Others gathered together from all parts of the city a multitude of those withered from famine and distributed bread to them all.

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As a means of caring for those who were ill, St. Basil of Caesarea founded the first hospital (c. 369). Christian hospitals grew apace, spreading throughout both the East and the West. By the mid-1500s, there were 37,000 Benedictine monasteries alone that cared for the sick.

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Compassion Through Education

Of course, God has called countless Christians to demonstrate compassion through education. In America, Harvard and Yale were founded by Puritans, Princeton was founded by Presbyterians, and Brown University was founded by Baptists. Oxford University, Cambridge University (founded in 1209 AD), University of Edinburgh, and Saint Andrews were all founded by and for Christianity in the UK. Of course, we can’t forget the hundreds of universities founded worldwide by the Roman and Eastern Orthodox churches, such as the University of Notre Dame, the Catholic University of Lyon, the University of Vienna (founded in 1365), and Saint Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Seminary.

The Most Prolific Compassion

Still, the most extraordinary undocumented Christian compassion comes from you and all faithful Christians. Our heart is not splintered; we do not practice socially categorized compassion. Because “For God so loved the world,” we must too.

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Don’t Cry

12 A funeral procession was coming out as he [Jesus] approached the village gate. The young man who had died was a widow’s only son, and a large crowd from the village was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. “Don’t cry!” he said. 14 Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. “Young man,” he said, “I tell you, get up.” 15 Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk! And Jesus gave him back to his mother.

Luke 7:12-16

The Hebrew writing style is to put the primary point, event, or reason in the middle of the account or story. The first part prepares the reader for the key point, and the remainder shows the reader its effect.

Luke gives us a brief account of Jesus bringing a dead young man back to life. The primary event is found in verse thirteen, where Jesus, filled with compassion, stops the funeral and says to the widow. “Don’t cry.” We may be inclined to think that the miracle was Luke’s point, but the miracle was the result of Christ’s compassion. The miracle does testify that Jesus was and is the Messiah, but Christ’s compassion tells us about His heart.

Jesus is the same today. When He looks upon a brokenhearted believer, He has the same heart. His action may differ from what He did for the widow, but His compassion is no less. We find our greatest comfort in Jesus. In times of distress, run to Him. In Jesus, you will find the comfort you need.

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How Do We Want to Be?

A common question is, “Who do you want to be?” Parents often ask their young kids this: “Nikki, do you want to be a scientist when you grow up?” This question gains more urgency when their children want to drop out of college! Asking “who” is important, but a better question, I think, is to ask ourselves or and our kids, “How do you want to be?”

This question is vital for each of us because it asks about our Christian character. The “how” takes us to our hearts and asks what kind of character we want to possess. Do we want to be a giver, a person who gives of his or her time, skills, manual labor, and money? Is that how you want to live?

God Cares About Your Character

Do you want to be an agent for change? Do you want to be the person that beings Jesus into difficult situations? Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to the glory of Jesus, do you want to affect your child’s PTO or change the environment of work meetings that you attend? Do you want to quell arguments, heal division, and quiet people who love to be disruptors?

Perhaps, you want to be the person that introduces Jesus to the kids at your church. You want to be that person who loves unconditionally, gives generously, and prays continually for children and young people. We aren’t limited to one of these! These are but a few of the “how’s” that Jesus, our Lord, may lead into us.

Many churches today are experiencing a free-fall in attendance due to COVID, dissension within the congregation, a crisis of relevance, and many other excuses. Nevertheless, the missing people on Sunday mornings are not released from their “hows.” Christian character isn’t something we can put on and take off.

Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.

Proverbs 28:6

Our character is our best measurement of our relationship with Christ Jesus. Godly character is life-changing for us and all with whom we come in contact. Let’s ask ourselves again, “How do I want to be?”

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Compassion To Jesus

And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42)

 In reading Matthew 10:42, the Jews would have understood “these little ones” as referring to scholars of a rabbi. So, in the context in which Jesus is speaking, Jesus was referring to His twelve Apostles. However, we gain a deeper understanding once we get to Matthew 25:40, where Jesus states, “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ 

From Matthew 25:40, we learn that Christ looks upon acts of kindness done to even the weakest godly people and will reward us as if we had done them to Jesus. Though our love and compassion must not be limited only to believers, yet it must be chiefly shown to those of the household of faith.

I find it fascinating that Jesus tells us to be sure to act compassionately to everyone but especially to our brothers and sisters for Jesus lives in them. God’s relationship to humanity is different for His children than for those that remain lost. It is worth all of our sacrifices, both big and small, which we make for others from our love of God. He does not ignore or dismiss our actions. I thank God for that.

Photo credit: Chris Yarzab on / CC BY

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