[e-Devotionals] 2004-11-10 - Compassion versus Mercy

Often I see, read or hear about something that grips my heart - be it a starving child on television, a battered woman, an abused child or people just "down on their luck." I have great compassion in my work, when I appraise a house that has been foreclosed, and children's toys are scattered and broken. I imagine that family dreams were broken as well. I wonder what went wrong. These are emotions of compassion. They are feelings. Webster's defines compassion as, "sympathetic consciousness of others' distress, together with a desire to alleviate it."

Compassion stirs something inside of us. It makes us have a desire to do something, but it ends there. Jesus was very compassionate. The Bible is full of examples of His compassion toward others.

Luke 7:13 When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. "Don't cry!" he said.
Matthew 9:36 He felt great pity for the crowds that came, because their problems were so great, and they didn't know where to go for help. They were like sheep without a shepherd.

But Jesus also was full of mercy. Mercy is an action word. We have mercy when we act on our compassion. One definition of mercy is "alleviating distress." Look at the verses below, which show examples of compassion followed by mercy.

Matthew 20:31-34 "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!" Jesus stopped in the road and called, "What do you want me to do for you?" "Lord," they said, "we want to see!" 34 Jesus felt sorry for them and touched their eyes. Instantly they could see!

Mark 8:2/6 "I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat." 6: So Jesus told all the people to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves, thanked God for them, broke them into pieces, and gave them to his disciples, who distributed the bread to the crowd.

Jesus' example for us is to go beyond compassion and into a mercy mode of living. Don't just feel sorry for the distressed, down and out, victims and so forth. DO something.

Pray for God's guidance. What causes your heart to stir? Volunteer at a local facility that helps those that you have the most compassion toward. Here in my town, men volunteer to guard a safe house for abused and battered women. There is a homeless shelter. There are after-school mentoring programs that you can do once a week. Donate an hour or two of your time to help at-risk kids. Perhaps your mercy will be as simple as opening your checkbook and sending a donation to a worthy cause.

Often our faith is criticized as an empty, rote and/or ritualistic faith that does nothing. We Christians must use our compassion, stirred by the love of God in us to fuel our mercy.

Let's do it!

Dear Father- help us to be not only passionate people, but people full of mercy. In Jesus name, Amen.

Questions or Comments?
David Massey