Summary: Fourth in a series about God’s attributes and how to reflect them to others.


God’s Compassion, Mercy, and Forgiveness

Matthew 18:21-35


We are continuing our series on the attributes or character qualities of God.

Today we are going to talk about God’s compassion, mercy, and forgiveness. It has come to my attention this past week, as Debra and I closed on our house, that we experienced the first two in tremendous quantities.

My original intention for this message was to speak just about God’s mercy, but as I was putting everything together, it became readily apparent that we could not do justice to the topic without also addressing compassion and forgiveness, because they are all linked.

I also want to warn you that we will not get through this outline today. As I was preparing, I realized that although these three are linked, there is a lot to say about each of them.

So we will get through the first point in the outline as we define and expand on the three ideas to be explored.

We will finish this next week, then we are going to look at the grace of God in a couple weeks, okay?

These three attributes of God, aside from love, are probably some of the most visible ones.

Visible, that is, in the hearts and lives of His people.

People identify these as being some of the more identifiable marks of “religious” people.

And that’s fine. That’s the way it should be.

I mentioned a long time ago that it was the Christians who started the soup kitchens, care for lepers and AIDS patients, the orphanages, the hospitals, etc.

Christians have always been at the forefront of showing compassion and mercy.

It is a very tangible expression of passing on that which God has given to us.

Christians are commanded to show compassion, mercy, and forgiveness. To not do so is a sin in the eyes of God.

But first, let’s get a handle on what these three concepts include, shall we? So, first we look at the three…

I. Revealed.

In this section, I want to spend a bit of time defining the terms, and fleshing them out a bit. You may be a bit surprised at what you learn today about these three ideas.

First, lets look at…

A. Compassion.

Here’s how the American Heritage Dictionary defines compassion:

Deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.

I’m going to review a little bit of something I have mentioned before. So if you have heard this before, just hang with me here for a bit.

Compassion goes farther than sympathy. It goes beyond empathy – able to feel their pain.

Compassion does something to help them out.

A great example of this is seen in the parable of the Good Samaritan.

You know the story, but let’s think about it for a minute. A Jew is traveling to Jericho and is attacked by thieves who leave him for dead.

A couple religious guys come by, and instead of caring for the man, they care more about not getting dirty or involved.

Then a Samaritan comes along, sees, the guy, has compassion, and treats his wounds, then puts him up at the nearest Super 8 until he gets better.

Of the three people, the priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan, who had the least good reason to help?

It was the Samaritan, right? And do you know why? Because Jews and Samaritans didn’t get along. In fact, they hated each other. The Samaritans were looked on as a kind of half-breed Jew.

But this Samaritan overcame his prejudices and acted with compassion.

Here’s another thing about compassion. It does not mean “agreement.”

Let me explain what I mean with a story. Again, this is a bit of review, but it is very appropriate.

Sam Crabtree, former Assistant to the Pastor at the Brookings Wesleyan Church, wrote a letter to the student Senate at SDSU to protest the giving of an ex officio seat on the Student Senate to the student homosexual group.

One of the senators called Sam, gave him a piece of his mind, then asked, “Where is your compassion?”

Sam replied by saying, “Don’t you think it is more compassionate to tell someone they are engaging in a lifestyle that kills the average male by age 36?”

Compassion sees someone heading for disaster and does something about it.

In Matthew 9:35-38 we read about an episode where Jesus showed compassion. Here’s what it says:

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."

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