What might cause you to be stingy with empathy or sympathy?
Today’s Scripture reading comes from Jonah 4:11, quoting from the NASB:
“Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?”
Compassion, a selfless concern or kind regard for the welfare of another, is a much-needed grace in short supply in our world. Something that should be freely given, compassion is often wielded as a weapon withheld to control others or as a reward for good behavior. A compassionate person is authentically encouraging. Jonah interpreted the mercy and compassion of God as weakness toward sinful Nineveh.
Jonah was called by God to encourage the people of Nineveh to turn from their sins. He was to preach against Nineveh, so they would turn to God and away from the destruction they deserved. After a false start in the wrong direction, Jonah did encourage the people by stating, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”
How is that for encouragement? Nonetheless, the people and the king repented in response to Jonah’s compassionless proclamation. Jonah was displeased and angry. Where was his compassion for the people?
It is hard to read the story of Jonah and not examine my own feelings or actions of bigotry. God showed compassion to the ignorant Ninevites in their repentant state. I have to admit that, like Jonah, I don’t always want to show compassion. I would rather make another’s good behavior a precondition for my compassion. God also had a precondition for Nineveh, but His motives were far more pure than mine would ever be. God took note of the number of people in that city, and He pointed out their ignorance—they do not know the difference between their right and left hand.
What might have caused Jonah to withhold compassion? What might cause you to be stingy with empathy or sympathy? Few things are worse than arrogance. Are you tempted to make your compassion for others conditional? Jonah mishandled conditional compassion and revealed his own judgmental and prideful arrogance. Let us strive to find the right blend of Christ filled compassion and Spirit guided correction.
Points to Ponder
Over the next week, here are 3 points to ponder during your personal time of reflection or with a small group or mentor.
- First, is the salvation of others, regardless of their sin, a priority to you?
- Second, would your family or coworkers characterize you as a compassionate person?
- Third, what does your compassion look like in the home? At work?