Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Lesson in Compassion

Today’s Reading: Jonah 1-4; Acts 15:1-21

“When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened” (Jonah 3: 10 NIV).

Jonah was angry. He couldn’t understand why God would have compassion on the Ninevites, a horribly evil people. I don’t really blame him. I don’t always understand God’s compassion either. Here’s some of Jonah’s dialogue with God:

“He prayed to the LORD, ‘O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.’
But the LORD replied, ‘Have you any right to be angry?’ (Jonah 4: 2-4 NIV).

Sometimes life is unfair. I’ll look at someone else and self-righteously declare that that person deserves to be punished. I’ll be driving down the road with someone tailgating me, and hope and pray that that person gets pulled over by the cops. It’s as if a part of me thinks that discipline is mine to determine, that I know best.
But 1 Samuel 16:7 reminds us of an important truth: “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (NIV).

God looked at the repenting Ninevites. He saw a change of heart in them, and so, in His graciousness, He decided to save them.
Jonah didn’t understand why. With his own human eyes, he could only see everything the Ninevites had done wrong.
But God saw differently.

And although my self-righteous, condemning tendencies may come to the forefront from time to time, overall I’m thankful that God offers that same grace to each of us.

Because there’s certainly days that I don’t deserve to be a daughter of the Lord. There’s certainly days when I mess up royally, and need His forgiveness once again. There’s certainly days that I don’t look all that Christ-like to the world around me. But even on those days, God looks not at my outward appearance, but at my inner heart, which longs to serve Him with every ounce of my being.
He sees my longing to be better, my repentant spirit, and my love for Him above all else.
And He sends my faults as far away as the east is from the west:
“ For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust”
(Psalm 103:11-14 NIV).

What area of your life do you need God’s compassion today?

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