Compassion more than all our doing

Jesus tell us that showing compassion trumps all our sacrifice. That’s an amazing statement when you think about it. It actually turns religion on its head, for religious ritual is all about sacrifice and self-denial. But Jesus’ way is the way of other-centered love, which may include sacrifice to show compassion but never to gain status with God, or with others through our religious virtue signaling.

Jesus allows His disciples to pick grain heads on the Sabbath beccause they haven’t eaten in days. The Pharisees accuse Jesus of breaking the Law (see Matt.12:1-5). Jesus’ response is stunning:

If only you could learn the meaning of the words ‘I want compassion more than a sacrifice,’ you wouldn’t be condemning my innocent disciples.  (Matt.12:7 TPT)

Compassion requires an awareness of other’s needs, even sufferings. We cannot be self-serving and be compassionate. They are mutually exclusive. Showing compassion also means we know what it means to have experienced God’s mercy for ourselves. As Jesus also tells us, those who’ve been forgiven much love much.

47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” (Luke 7:47 NKJV)

This is why keeping the Law was more important to these Pharisees than showing compassion. They had never opened their hearts to God’s mercy and love, so they had none to give. The same is true today with closed hearts.

If you’ve been watching The Chosen TV Series you watched Mary Magdalene’s slide into a dark place in her soul in episode 5 of season two (see my post, “He knows where we left us.”) In episode 6 , we see Mary’s rescue from herself. (SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen episode 6, you may want to watch before reading further!)

Jesus sends Peter and Matthew after her and they find her back where Jesus had originally rescued her from her demons. She feels so ashamed and doesn’t think Jesus could ever forgive her again. Peter and Matthew talk her into coming back with them and now she has to face Jesus, the One she feels she betrayed. Here’s the clip:

I love the following dialogue from this scene between Jesus and Mary:

Mary: “I owe you everthing, but I just don’t think I can do it.”
Jesus: “Do what?”
Mary: “Live up to it. Repay you…how could I leave, how could I go back to the place I was, and I didn’t come back on my own. They had to come get me….I just can’t live up to it.”
Jesus: “Well, that’s true…but you don’t have to. I just want your heart. The Father just wants your heart. Give Us that, which you already have, and the rest will come in time.”*

While we know we can never “repay” Jesus for what He’s done for us, we often still do try to repay Him in how we respond to our own failures and shame. Worse, we may want to punish ourselves in some way, usually by keeping our distance from Jesus, or by doing acts of service as some form of penance (which has nothing to do with repentance). Sadly, much of what passes for philanthropy is born out of guilt rather than compassion.

But, again, all that means is that we still haven’t learned that compassion, or mercy, always trumps sacrifice. We have to receive mercy for ourselves before we will ever walk in true compassion for others.

This is what Mary had to find out (and we have to find out). Her life in Christ, and ours, will never be self-sustaining. That’s a religious hamster wheel that only leads to frustration and disillusionment. Her life, and ours, must be constantly nourished and sustained by the power of His love.

23 Jesus replied, Loving me empowers you to obey my word. And my Father will love you so deeply that we will come to you and make you our dwelling place. (John 14:23 TPT*)

And His love also empowers us to carry one another’s burdens.

My beloved friends, if you see a believer who is overtaken with a fault, the one who is in the Spirit should seek to restore him in the Spirit of gentleness. But keep watch over your own heart so that you won’t be tempted to exalt yourself over him. Love empowers us to fulfill the law of the Anointed One as we carry each other’s troubles. (Gal.6:1-2 TPT*)

Jesus tells Mary in this scene, “I just want your heart. The Father just wants your heart. Give Us that, which you already have, and the rest will come in time.” This perfectly describes our journey with Jesus.

Then, Jesus tells Mary to look up, to look at Him. After struggling to do so, she looks up and He says the words that are the healing balm to our soul, “I forgive you….It’s over.”

As I said last time, this is perfectly depicted in the following words from the song, “Defender.”

“When I thought I lost me
You knew where I left me
You reintroduced me to Your love
You picked up all my pieces
Put me back together
You are the defender of my heart”

This scene beautifully depicts how Jesus—the Lover of our soul—reintroduces us to His love when we’ve lost our way. May we always remember that showing compassion is better than all our sacrifice as we navigate this broken world. Amen.

* All emphasis added.

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 40 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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9 Responses to Compassion more than all our doing

  1. This is awesome, Mel! A timely message too, because I’ve been meditating on compassion all week. I’ve never heard it presented quite like this, so that’s cool too, “showing compassion trumps all our sacrifice.”

    God is just like that, but people are too! Often what they need the most is just for you to listen and show some compassion. Sometime we can even solve all their problems without even lifting a finger. It’s amazing! It would be a bit funny if instead we just sacrificed a goat or something.

    Somebody smart once told me that, “self-denial is self deception. We tend to deny things that are unpleasant. Why are you a thing that is unpleasant?” It was a good revelation! We have a Great Physician and a Potter who is in the business of polishing us up and making masterpieces. I think sometimes religion gets all confused about denying yourself and denial, deprivation.

    I also really liked this line from the Chosen, “I just want your heart. The Father just wants your heart. Give Us that, which you already have, and the rest will come in time.”

    • Mel Wild says:

      Amen, IB. I really liked a couple of things you said here.

      “Sometime we can even solve all their problems without even lifting a finger. It’s amazing! It would be a bit funny if instead we just sacrificed a goat or something.”

      That’s so true. Sometimes listening, or when we make a person feel heard, is all they need. They can work through the issue themselves. The second part sounds like a Monty Python skit! LOL! “Sorry for your problems….that will be one goat…” 😛

      “We have a Great Physician and a Potter who is in the business of polishing us up and making masterpieces.”

      Amen and amen! Well said. It’s like what Graham Cooke said: “God doesn’t deal with you according to what’s wrong with you but according to what you’re missing in your experience in Christ.” We need to remember that, or else we’ll be like Mary, hiding from Jesus in her shame because she thought she failed Him. Failure is a great teacher when we’re WITH Jesus!

  2. Yep—loved loved that scene.
    I’ve been there with Mary on the slide backwards.
    I’ve also written about the moment from the Passion when the adulteress reached every so humbly and broken simply to touch the foot of the man who has told her to go and sin no more!
    There is an older contemporary Christian song by Jars of Clay–Love Song for a Savior.

    It brings me to tears every time I hear it…at times I have actually sobbed.
    That tangible moment of having Him call me as I fall into His arms…

    A total complete release of everything and all that is so heavy.

    Like Mary, He embraces me as I am so utterly broken…
    and there is just the simple…”I forgive you…”

    “In open fields of wild flowers
    She breathes the air and flies away
    She thanks her Jesus for the daises and the roses
    In no simple language
    Someday she’ll understand the meaning of it all
    He’s more than the laughter or the stars in the heavens
    As close as a heartbeat or a song on her lips
    Someday she’ll trust Him and learn how to see Him
    Someday He’ll call her and she will come running
    And fall in His arms and the tears will fall down and she’ll pray
    I want to fall in love with You
    I want to fall in love with You
    I want to fall in love with You
    I want to fall in love with You”

    Thank you Mel!

    • Mel Wild says:

      That’s a classic. A great song! Thanks for sharing it, Julie. I love that about certain songs. They beautifully remind us of how Jesus loves us and transforms us in the encounter. There’s a tag line from the song “Closer” I mention a lot for the same reason. It goes, “You can love me more in a moment than other lovers can in a lifetime.” It pretty much says it all about how Jesus’ love transcends all other human experience!

  3. Nick says:

    I’ve been reading Alfred Edersheim’s “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah” and one item that stuck out to me (for obvious reasons) was Jesus’s behavior towards lepers. Rabbinism at the time didn’t have compassion for lepers. They were outcast, unclean, and – here’s the interesting part – the rabbis suggested people stay at least six feet away from a leper. They were left isolated, untreated and unministered in their sickness.

    Jesus didn’t listen to that. He approached them. He spoke to them. He touched them. He forgave them.

    Like you said, compassion.

  4. Pingback: My heart shall become your heart (a re-post) « cookiecrumbstoliveby

  5. Tricia says:

    From what I read of your post Mel, I can tell it’s a great one. I have watched that chosen episode yet so I’m going to wait until I do before reading it entirely and properly commenting. It’s the next episode on our list!

    I do enjoy hope your using that series as a launch point for some of your posts. It’s really a great show, I hope more people watch it.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Yes, it is a great series because it really catches the nature and brings to life Jesus as we see Him in the Gospels and how we experience Him in our own lives. You’ll love episode 6!

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