An Otherworldly Compassion
Paul faced a choice when he found himself in the midst of a storm. He was most likely chained in the bottom of the ship, as was the common practice for transporting prisoners. When he warned the people not to undertake this journey, he was scoffed at and scorned. The voice of truth is constantly set aside as bigoted and out of touch. Eventually it is locked away in the same way that Paul was relegated to the bottom of the ship.
Imagine the unspeakable hardship that Paul once again faced. Nevertheless, in the midst of it all, Paul chose in his heart to forgive these men. He stood before them and said, “For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told” (Acts 27:23-25, ESV).
Isn’t that amazing? Paul, once an intolerant Pharisee who hauled people out of their homes and tortured them to get them to blaspheme the name of Christ, was now moved with compassion for his oppressors!
We must have the compassion of God flowing out through us. How do we get to such a place? Not merely by study. We might wish we could take a Bible course somewhere and come out compassionate, but it just doesn’t work that way. Compassion comes by allowing the one who already won the battle for kindness to do his work in and through us.
I am well aware that I cannot forgive or love with that kind of divine love, and neither can you. Human effort cannot produce the kind of compassion required to reach a perishing world or the kind of forgiveness that the greatest depths of depravity demand. It is supernatural and must be worked in us by God. Try as you might to love people in your own strength, you will find that words of grace and forgiveness will not be in your mouth unless they are supernaturally put there by Almighty God.
Learning to love the unlovely requires a change of heart and a molding of character that God must work into your life by the Holy Spirit.
Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001. In May of 2020 he transitioned into a continuing role as General Overseer of Times Square Church, Inc.