Compassion in the midst of evil

Faith & Inspiration
by Andrée Seu Peterson

Posted on Thursday, July 9, 2015, at 3:33 pm

God commands us to have compassion, as well as zealousness for truth. The question of the hour for Christians—today more than ever—is how to fulfill both commands.

There are among us those who believe they are men trapped in women’s bodies, or vice versa. There are among us those who think it acceptable to mate with a person or persons of the same gender. They mind their own business. But there are those who make a life’s work of agitating with a cynical political agenda for a perverse moral revolution.

What shall we say then? That we should have compassion on the former but be flintlike with the latter? Or should we be compassionate with the latter too, since even evil men are lost, and even people bent on destroying the church may have had unfortunate formative upbringings?

Here are some verses endorsing compassion:

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another …” (Ephesians 4:32, ESV).

“Brothers, in anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Galatians 6:1, ESV).

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” (1 Peter 3:8, ESV).

(Interestingly, these I happened to think of all concern Christians’ compassion toward other Christians, not outsiders.)

Here are some verses endorsing flintlikeness:

“They must be silenced, for they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach” (Titus 1:11, ESV).

“… to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you” (Galatians 2:5, ESV).

“I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!” (Galatians 5:12, ESV)

The command to “silence people” and to “not yield even for a moment,” not to mention to wish to “emasculate,” do not emote much touchy-feeliness.

Here is an interesting combo-verse suggesting discernment and discrimination in applying compassion and flintlikeness:

“… save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 1:23, ESV).

Jude says to “snatch” people out of the fires of hell (that’s compassionate, but the action seems almost violent in its quick and indelicate seizing), and to show mercy (that’s compassionate, but there is no hint that the one showing mercy concedes any common ground or sympathy toward the position he is confronting).

Note that these compassionate saviors “hate” the garment stained by the flesh (there is not an iota of sympathy for the heretical position here). And the big question is whether “snatching” is best done by emoting sympathy or by being flintlike in the way they rebuke the people caught in it.

You might think Phinehas, the priest in Moses’ day, was low on compassion when he harpooned first and asked questions later. But God gave a supreme compliment to his knee-jerk visceral reaction to an act of sexual perversity committed right in front of him:

“… he was zealous with my zeal …” (Numbers 25:11, NKJV).

“Then Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was stayed. And that was counted to him as righteousness from generation to generation forever” (Psalm 106:30-31, ESV).

All of us were at one time lost, and occasionally lose our way even now, and so we all want compassion, and must all exercise it too. The main ground rule seems to be that compassion must never wimp out into any sympathy for evil. That would do no good for you or for the one you’re trying to help.

Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.

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