The God Of Compassion

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There is a common terminology people in congregations often use that easily is abused. While many Christians commonly use this terminology, most who use it do not understand it. Maybe none of us uses the terminology correctly. I am referring to the terms “faithful Christian” and “unfaithful Christian.”

It is more demanding than many realize to discuss faithfulness and unfaithfulness because that discussion involves many interrelated concepts. For example, does God want each Christian to be as devout, as dedicated, as serving, as obedient, as knowledgeable as possible? Certainly! If you are a Christian, God wants you to grow into the most spiritually mature person you are capable of being! He wants complete commitment to Him and to Christ in your life!

While a common commitment to excellence and spiritual maturity must be understood by every Christian, that understanding does not deal with all aspects of who is faithful or unfaithful. A second question is equally relevant. To whom will God be merciful?

Is God a God of compassion? Certainly! Is God a God of mercy? Certainly! To whom will God show mercy and compassion? Many Christians suggest God will show both to people whom they regard as needing it least. The too common answer is that He will show both to the “faithful” Christian.

Let me clearly state I am not talking about the person who rejects Christ. I am talking about people who have entered Christ. This is my question: will God be compassionate and merciful to the “unfaithful” Christian?

That question may make most of us uncomfortable. We do not want to give anyone the impression that he or she can willfully choose to rebel against God and be securely saved at the same time. We certainly do not want to discourage any Christian from dedication to growth and spiritual maturity. Nor do we want any Christian to believe he or she deliberately can exist in spiritual infancy for a physical lifetime and be secure in Christ.

While those are legitimate concerns, they do not address another problem that should be of concern. Who decides who is a faithful or unfaithful Christian? How is that determination made? Is it a matter of church attendance? Is it a matter of locally approved deeds? Is it a matter of positions on certain “issues?” Just how is faithfulness and unfaithfulness decided?

Too commonly, “unfaithful” is used for the person who disagrees with my conclusions or positions, and “faithful” is used for the person who agrees with me. “Unfaithful” is used for someone who does less than I do or does not do things I think are important, and “faithful” refers to the person who does as much or more than I do.

What does it mean to decide a person is “unfaithful?” For many it means God’s mercy and compassion are not available to him or her, or it means he or she is condemned.

I want to share a parable from Jesus with you about God’s attitude toward a faithful and unfaithful Jew. The parable makes a statement about God’s compassion and about human attitudes. The parable is just plain frightening!

  1. Before we examine the parable, let’s consider the need to understand the parable.
    1. Our brotherhood is filled with divisions, clicks, and parties that have decided they have a true understanding of God’s real will.
      1. That is true of most any religious group you examine.
        1. You can see the problem most anywhere you turn.
        2. However, that fact that I see it among us gives me no comfort.
      2. All of our confrontational groups claim the same thing: “We are the faithful!”
      3. What does a group mean by that?
        1. They mean, “God listens to and smiles on us, but not you.”
        2. They mean, “When you approach God, it makes Him so angry He listens to nothing you say.”
      4. Sadly, the problem does not stop in the universal church.
        1. Similar problems exist in too many local congregations.
        2. The “faithful” in these congregations regard everyone else in the congregation as “unfaithful.”
        3. If you could “improve” your congregation by getting rid of someone, who would you get rid of?
        4. Have you ever wondered who would “get rid of” you?
        5. Do you really believe the Lord will forgive you and not forgive him or her?
  2. Consider Jesus’ parable about the faithful and unfaithful Jew in Luke 18:9-14.
    Luke 18:9-14, And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

    1. We are told to whom this parable is directed.
      1. It was directed to those “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous.”
        1. They were confident they were righteous because of what they did in keeping the law of Moses.
        2. Righteousness was merely a matter of obedience.
        3. God was not the source of righteousness; human deeds were the source of righteousness.
        4. They placed their faith in themselves, not in God.
      2. As a result in trusting in themselves, they considered others not like them as nothing.
        1. The Greek word used here is a strong word.
        2. It means to utterly despise.
        3. They are the good people God listens to and loves, but the “unfaithful” ones are evil and despised by God.
        4. They are certain they despise people God despises.
    2. The setting is the temple area in Jerusalem.
      1. The temple courtyards were “the” place to pray.
        1. The temple was the place God’s presence dwelled.
        2. The temple area was as close as you physically could come to God.
        3. Those facts had to make prayer there more effective.
      2. Those close enough to do so were expected to pray at the temple area three times a day.
        1. Thus people assembled at 9 am, noon, and 3 p.m. to pray.
        2. Do you remember that Peter and John in Acts 4 went to the temple at the hour of prayer and healed a lame man?
        3. Do you remember that Cornelius was praying at the hour of prayer when the angel came to him?
    3. The principle character of the parable is the Pharisee.
      1. The purpose of his prayer was to affirm his righteousness.
      2. The fact that “he prayed thus with himself” may mean one of two things.
        1. It may mean he prayed silently.
        2. It may mean he prayed to reinforce his opinions of himself.
      3. He declared himself righteous for two reasons.
        1. He was not like other “unfaithful” Jews–the extortioner, the unjust, the adulterer, or the tax collector (who was near by).
        2. He did the “right things.”
          1. He fasted twice a week [a custom followed by then devout Jews every Monday and Thursday–a supposed declaration that they knew their place without God having to act against them].
          2. He gave 10% of all he brought [not just prospered]; he went beyond common expectation.
      4. Please note nothing suggested his claims were insincere or false.
        1. He really thought he was righteous.
        2. He believed he did what was right and important.
        3. His obedience and compliance to tradition was meticulous.
        4. That was all he seemed to know to do–there is no reflection on the internal realities of his life.
    4. The secondary character in this parable is the Jewish tax collector.
      1. Jewish society regarded such people as scum, traitors, thieves to be rejected by “good Jews.”
      2. Nothing indicated that the Jewish tax collector was spiritually exceptional.
      3. The fact he stood removed could mean two things.
        1. It could mean he felt unworthy to stand by someone like the Pharisee.
        2. It could mean he felt unworthy to be near the temple.
      4. He did not assume the common prayer position–arms raised, face upward, eyes open.
        1. He was consumed with his unworthiness, so he bowed his head and beat on his chest to declare contempt for his sin.
      5. He said one sentence: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”
        1. He declared no self-virtues or religious achievements.
        2. He claimed no spiritual value.
        3. He asked for the only thing that could help–God’s mercy.
        4. He did not ask for mercy because he felt he deserved it, but because he needed it.
    5. God’s reaction in the situation was not at all what is expected.
      1. He was completely unimpressed with the Pharisee’s prayer.
        1. He did not even respond to it.
        2. The man felt no need for mercy, did not ask for mercy, and received no mercy from God.
        3. The man approached God on the basis of his achievements, and that is where God let him stand!
        4. How tragic that he did not realize his need for mercy!
        5. God did not justify the Pharisee!
      2. The compassionate God was so moved by the tax collector’s prayer that He justified the man!
        1. You need to understand God’s concept of justification to fully grasp the parable’s point!
        2. God removed that man’s sins from his account!
        3. In essence, God declared the outcast tax collector guiltless!
  3. We need the proper focus on the parable.
    1. Was the Pharisee wrong in what he did and did not do? No!
    2. Then what was his mistake?
      1. His concept of righteousness was incorrect because it was grossly inadequate.
        1. He thought righteousness was focused on human deeds.
        2. He did not understand the importance of attitude and internal values.
      2. He did not realize his own desperate need for mercy.
      3. He was clueless regarding his own mistakes and sinfulness.
      4. He felt good about himself because of what he did, and not what God did for him.
    3. Was the tax collector right in the evil things he did? No!
      1. The parable does not justify failures and mistakes.
      2. It does not say it is okay to do evil as long as you pray about your mistakes in the correct way.
      3. It does not turn evil into righteousness.
    4. The parable powerfully declares the kind of human response that touches a compassionate, merciful God.
      1. God is touched by human awareness of unworthiness.
      2. God is touched by honest human acknowledgment of sin.
      3. God is touched by honest confession that utterly depends on His mercy.
      4. God is touched by earnest pleas for forgiveness.

The parable says the supreme human expression of arrogance is for a person to believe he is righteous because of his own accomplishments and behavior. It says God does not respond to prayers and lives when we declare we are better than the “unfaithful” Christian. It says we do not prove our spiritual superiority by comparing ourselves to another human.

The parable stings! It hits too close to our lives! It exposes too much of our religious motivations in all their unattractiveness!

David Chadwell

Author: Greg

Welcome to Gods Message on the web. My name is Greg and I want to welcome you. I started doing these Podcasts, MP3, and Audio Books back in 2007. Stay awhile and make yourself at home. The Christian Podcasts here are free and for everyone to enjoy. I’m doing a complete series on David Chadwell who is a retired minister from Fort Smith, Arkansas. I’ve also done an Audio Book for Wayne Jacobsen’s the Naked Church. Plus a series of MP3s for Pastor Billy Crone and his The Final Countdown series.

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