Be Tenderly Compassionate
“Clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness.”—COLOSSIANS 3:12.
1. Why is there a great need for compassion today?
NEVER before in history have so many people been in need of compassionate assistance. In the face of sickness, hunger, unemployment, crime, wars, anarchy, and natural disasters, millions need help. But there is a problem even more serious, and that is mankind’s desperate spiritual plight. Satan, who knows his time is short, “is misleading the entire inhabited earth.” (Revelation 12:9, 12) Hence, particularly those outside the true Christian congregation are in danger of losing their lives, and the Bible rules out any hope of a resurrection for those executed during God’s coming day of judgment.—Matthew 25:31-33, 41, 46; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9.
2. Why has Jehovah held back from destroying the wicked?
2 Yet, until this late hour, Jehovah God continues to show patience and compassion toward the unthankful and the wicked. (Matthew 5:45; Luke 6:35, 36) He has done this for the same reason that he delayed punishing the unfaithful nation of Israel. “‘As I am alive,’ is the utterance of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, ‘I take delight, not in the death of the wicked one, but in that someone wicked turns back from his way and actually keeps living. Turn back, turn back from your bad ways, for why is it that you should die, O house of Israel?’”—Ezekiel 33:11.
3. What example do we have of Jehovah’s compassion for those not his people, and what do we learn from this?
3 Jehovah’s compassion was also extended to the wicked Ninevites. Jehovah sent his prophet Jonah to warn them of impending destruction. They reacted positively to Jonah’s preaching and repented. This moved the compassionate God, Jehovah, to hold back from destroying the city at that time. (Jonah 3:10; 4:11) If God felt sorry for the Ninevites, who would have had the possibility of a resurrection, how much more must he feel compassion for people who today face an everlasting destruction!—Luke 11:32.
An Unprecedented Work of Compassion
4. How is Jehovah expressing compassion for people today?
4 In harmony with his compassionate personality, Jehovah has commissioned his Witnesses to keep visiting their neighbors with the “good news of the kingdom.” (Matthew 24:14) And when people respond with appreciation to this lifesaving work, Jehovah opens their hearts to grasp the Kingdom message. (Matthew 11:25; Acts 16:14) In imitation of their God, true Christians show tender compassion by calling back on interested ones, helping them, where possible, by means of a Bible study. Thus, in 1993, over four and a half million Witnesses of Jehovah, in 231 countries, spent more than one billion hours preaching from house to house and studying the Bible with their neighbors. These newly interested ones, in turn, have the opportunity of dedicating their lives to Jehovah and joining the ranks of his baptized Witnesses. Thus, they too commit themselves to this unprecedented work of compassion in behalf of prospective disciples still trapped in Satan’s dying world.—Matthew 28:19, 20; John 14:12.
5. When divine compassion has reached its limit, what will happen to religion that misrepresents God?
5 Soon Jehovah will act as “a manly person of war.” (Exodus 15:3) Out of compassion for his name and for his people, he will clear away wickedness and establish a righteous new world. (2 Peter 3:13) The first to experience God’s day of wrath will be the churches of Christendom. Even as God did not spare his own temple in Jerusalem from the hand of the king of Babylon, so he will not spare religious organizations that have misrepresented him. God will put it into the heart of members of the United Nations to desolate Christendom and all other forms of false religion. (Revelation 17:16, 17) “And as for me,” Jehovah declares, “my eye will not feel sorry, neither shall I show compassion. Their way I shall certainly bring upon their own head.”—Ezekiel 9:5, 10.
6. In what ways are Jehovah’s Witnesses moved to show compassion?
6 While there is still time, Jehovah’s Witnesses continue to show compassion for their neighbors by zealously preaching God’s message of salvation. And naturally, where possible, they also help people who are in material need. In this regard, though, their first responsibility is to care for the needs of close family members and those related to them in the faith. (Galatians 6:10; 1 Timothy 5:4, 8) The many relief missions performed by Jehovah’s Witnesses in behalf of fellow believers who have suffered various disasters have been striking examples of compassion. Nevertheless, Christians do not have to wait for a crisis before showing tender compassion. They quickly display this quality in dealing with the ups and downs of daily living.
Part of the New Personality
7. (a) At Colossians 3:8-13, how is compassion linked with the new personality? (b) What does tender affection make it easier for Christians to do?
7 It is true that our sinful nature and the bad influence of Satan’s world are obstacles to our being tenderly compassionate. That is why the Bible urges us to put away “wrath, anger, badness, abusive speech, and obscene talk.” Instead we are counseled to ‘clothe ourselves with the new personality’—a personality that conforms to God’s image. First of all, we are commanded to clothe ourselves “with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering.” The Bible then shows us a practical way to manifest these qualities. “Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave you, so do you also.” It is much easier to be forgiving if we have cultivated the ‘tender affection of compassion’ for our brothers.—Colossians 3:8-13.
8. Why is it important to have a forgiving spirit?
8 On the other hand, the failure to display compassionate forgiveness jeopardizes our relationship with Jehovah. This was forcefully shown by Jesus in his illustration of the unforgiving slave, put in jail by his master “until he should pay back all that was owing.” The slave deserved this treatment because he shockingly failed to show compassion for a fellow slave who begged for mercy. Jesus concluded the illustration by saying: “In like manner my heavenly Father will also deal with you if you do not forgive each one his brother from your hearts.”—Matthew 18:34, 35.
9. How is tender compassion related to the most important aspect of the new personality?
9 Being tenderly compassionate is an important aspect of love. And love is the identifying mark of true Christianity. (John 13:35) Hence, the Bible’s description of the new personality concludes: “Besides all these things, clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union.”—Colossians 3:14.
Envy—An Obstacle to Compassion
10. (a) What may cause jealousy to take root in our hearts? (b) What bad results can come from jealousy?
10 Because of our sinful human nature, feelings of envy can easily take root in our hearts. A brother or a sister may be blessed with natural abilities or material advantages that we do not have. Or perhaps someone has received special spiritual blessings and privileges. If we become envious of such ones, will we be able to treat them with tender compassion? Probably not. Instead, jealous feelings may eventually manifest themselves in critical talk or unkind acts, for Jesus said of humans: “Out of the heart’s abundance his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) Others may side with such criticism. Thus the peace of a family or a congregation of God’s people could be disrupted.
11. How did Joseph’s ten brothers crowd compassion out of their hearts, and with what result?
11 Consider what happened in one large family. Jacob’s ten oldest sons grew jealous of their younger brother Joseph because he was their father’s favorite. As a result, “they were not able to speak peacefully to him.” Later, Joseph was blessed with divine dreams, proving that he had Jehovah’s favor. This gave his brothers “further reason to hate him.” Because they did not root out jealousy from their hearts, it crowded out compassion and led to serious sin.—Genesis 37:4, 5, 11.
12, 13. What should we do when feelings of jealousy enter our heart?
12 Cruelly, they sold Joseph into slavery. In an attempt to cover up their wrongdoing, they deceived their father into thinking that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal. Years later their sin came to light when they were forced by famine to go down to Egypt and buy food. The food administrator, whom they did not recognize to be Joseph, accused them of spying and told them not to seek his help again unless they brought their youngest brother, Benjamin. By this time Benjamin had become their father’s favorite, and they knew that Jacob would not want to let him go.
13 So while standing before Joseph, their consciences moved them to admit: “Unquestionably we are guilty with regard to our brother [Joseph], because we saw the distress of his soul when he implored compassion on our part, but we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.” (Genesis 42:21) By his compassionate yet firm dealings, Joseph helped his brothers prove the genuineness of their repentance. Then he revealed his identity to them and generously forgave them. Family unity was restored. (Genesis 45:4-8) As Christians, we should learn a lesson from this. Knowing the bad consequences of envy, we should pray to Jehovah for help in replacing jealous feelings with the ‘tender affection of compassion.’
Other Obstacles to Compassion
14. Why should we avoid unnecessary exposure to violence?
14 Another obstacle to our being compassionate can result from unnecessarily exposing ourselves to violence. Sports and entertainment that feature violence promote bloodlust. In Bible times, pagans regularly watched gladiatorial contests and other forms of human torture in the arenas of the Roman Empire. Such entertainment, according to one historian, “destroyed the nerve of sympathy for suffering which distinguishes the human from the brute creation.” Much of the entertainment in today’s modern world has the same effect. Christians, who strive to be tenderly compassionate, need to be highly selective in their choice of reading matter, motion pictures, and TV programs. Wisely they keep in mind the words of Psalm 11:5: “Anyone loving violence [Jehovah] certainly hates.”
15. (a) How may a person betray a serious lack of compassion? (b) How do true Christians respond to the needs of fellow believers and neighbors?
15 A self-centered person is also likely to lack compassion. This is serious, as the apostle John explains: “Whoever has this world’s means for supporting life and beholds his brother having need and yet shuts the door of his tender compassions upon him, in what way does the love of God remain in him?” (1 John 3:17) A similar lack of compassion was shown by the self-righteous priest and the Levite in Jesus’ illustration of the neighborly Samaritan. On seeing the plight of their half-dead Jewish brother, these crossed to the other side of the road and continued on their way. (Luke 10:31, 32) On the contrary, compassionate Christians respond quickly to the material and spiritual needs of their brothers. And like the Samaritan of Jesus’ illustration, they are also concerned about the needs of strangers. Thus they gladly give of their time, energy, and means to advance the disciple-making work. In this manner they contribute to the salvation of millions.—1 Timothy 4:16.
Compassion for the Sick
16. What limitations do we encounter in dealing with cases of sickness?
16 Sickness is the lot of imperfect, dying mankind. Christians are no exception, and most of them are not medical professionals, nor can they perform miracles as did some early Christians who received such powers from Christ and his apostles. With the death of Christ’s apostles and their immediate associates, such miraculous powers passed away. Hence, our ability to aid those who suffer from physical sickness, including brain dysfunction and hallucinations, is limited.—Acts 8:13, 18; 1 Corinthians 13:8.
17. What lesson do we learn from the way the sick and bereaved man Job was treated?
17 Depression often accompanies illness. For example, God-fearing Job was very depressed because of severe sickness and the calamities that Satan brought upon him. (Job 1:18, 19; 2:7; 3:3, 11-13) He needed friends who would treat him with tender compassion and who would “speak consolingly.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14) Instead, three so-called comforters visited him and jumped to wrong conclusions. They aggravated Job’s depressed state by suggesting that his calamities were due to some fault of his own. Being tenderly compassionate, Christians will avoid falling into a similar trap when fellow believers are sick or depressed. Sometimes, the main thing that such ones need is a few kindly visits from elders or other mature Christians who will listen with a sympathetic ear, show understanding, and provide loving Scriptural counsel.—Romans 12:15; James 1:19.
Compassion for the Weak
18, 19. (a) How should elders deal with weak or erring ones? (b) Even if it is necessary to form a judicial committee, why is it important for elders to treat wrongdoers with tender compassion?
18 Elders especially must be tenderly compassionate. (Acts 20:29, 35) “We . . . who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those not strong,” the Bible commands. (Romans 15:1) Being imperfect, all of us make mistakes. (James 3:2) Tenderness is needed in dealing with one who “takes some false step before he is aware of it.” (Galatians 6:1) Never do the elders want to be like the self-righteous Pharisees who were unreasonable in their application of God’s Law.
19 In contrast, elders follow the tenderly compassionate examples of Jehovah God and Jesus Christ. Their main work is to nourish, encourage, and refresh God’s sheep. (Isaiah 32:1, 2) Instead of trying to control matters by a multitude of rules, they appeal to the fine principles in God’s Word. Hence, the function of the elders should be to build up, to bring joy and appreciation for Jehovah’s goodness to the hearts of their brothers. If a fellow believer makes some minor error, an elder usually will avoid correcting him in the hearing of others. If it is necessary to talk at all, tender feelings of compassion will move the elder to take that one aside and discuss the problem out of earshot of others. (Compare Matthew 18:15.) No matter how difficult someone may be to get along with, the elder’s approach should be patient and helpful. Never does he want to look for excuses to throw such a one out of the congregation. Even when it is necessary to form a judicial committee, the elders will show tender compassion in dealing with the person involved in serious wrongdoing. Their gentleness may help bring that one to repentance.—2 Timothy 2:24-26.
20. When are emotional expressions of compassion inappropriate, and why?
20 There are times, however, when a servant of Jehovah cannot show compassion. (Compare Deuteronomy 13:6-9.) For a Christian to “quit mixing in company” with a close friend or relative who has been disfellowshipped can be a real test. In such a case, it is important that one not give in to feelings of pity. (1 Corinthians 5:11-13) Such firmness may even encourage the erring one to repent. Further, in dealing with the opposite sex, Christians must avoid inappropriate displays of compassion that could lead to sexual immorality.
21. In what other areas do we need to show tender compassion, and what are the benefits?
21 Space does not allow us to discuss all the many areas in which tender compassion is needed—in dealing with the elderly, the bereaved, those undergoing persecution from unbelieving mates. Hardworking elders should likewise be treated with tender compassion. (1 Timothy 5:17) Respect them and give them support. (Hebrews 13:7, 17) “All of you be . . . tenderly compassionate,” wrote the apostle Peter. (1 Peter 3:8) By acting in this manner in all situations that require it, we promote unity and happiness in the congregation and draw outsiders to the truth. Above all, we thereby honor our tenderly compassionate Father, Jehovah.
Questions in Review
□ How does Jehovah show compassion for sinful mankind?
□ Why is it important to be tenderly compassionate?
□ What are some obstacles to our being tenderly compassionate?
□ How should we treat the sick and the depressed?
□ Who especially need to be tenderly compassionate, and why?
[Box on page 19]
THE Sabbath day of rest was meant to be a spiritual and physical blessing for God’s people. Jewish religious leaders, however, made many rules that dishonored God’s Sabbath law and made it burdensome for the people. For example, if anyone had an accident or suffered from sickness, he could not receive help on the Sabbath unless his life was in danger.
One school of Pharisees was so strict in its interpretation of the Sabbath law that it said: “One does not comfort mourners, nor does one visit sick people on the Sabbath.” Other religious leaders allowed such visits on the Sabbath but stipulated: “Tears are forbidden.”
Thus, Jesus rightly condemned the Jewish religious leaders for overlooking the more important requirements of the Law, such as justice, love, and mercy. No wonder he said to the Pharisees: “You make the word of God invalid by your tradition”!—Mark 7:8, 13; Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42.
[Pictures on page 17]
In 231 lands Jehovah’s Witnesses are carrying out an unprecedented work of compassion in people’s homes, in the streets, even in prisons
[Picture on page 18]
Exposure to violence, such as that on TV, undermines tender compassion