Overwhelming Compassion – The Fight Against Bitterness

mattholmes2The word “them” can be a dangerous device.  As history suggests, the definition of “them” often starkly contrasts with “us.”  With a careless wielding of these terms, God’s compassion is contested with bitterness.  Recently, God has been exposing this in my own life.

As if I deserve anything on my own merit or have amassed enough theological understanding, I find myself falling into the devastating belief that I am better than “them” – essentially, the belief that I am more worthy of God’s grace.  While relying on self-righteousness I lack even the self-awareness to admit that I am just like everyone: poor, crippled, lame, and blind.  God has compassion on us all, and in His forbearance, God’s grace seeks to give us life to the fullest.

“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4).

I read through the Book of Jonah again recently, and in a new light felt the deep sadness weighing within its message.  With his early ministry a success within Israel, the prophet Jonah was told by God to arise, go, and call out to the pagan city of Nineveh.  When called to extend compassion on “them,” Jonah’s resentment for Nineveh led to a response of flight.  As God had His way, extending grace to Nineveh, Jonah’s bitterness grew.  While going out from the city, Jonah’s anger made him wish death even upon himself.

If we flaunt personal pride and perceived privilege as seen in Jonah, we can expect our response to be that of bitterness and anger when seeing God’s mercy in motion.  God’s compassion extends much farther than we can imagine.

The culmination of God’s compassion is the great wedding feast of the Lamb.  All are invited to the table.  In Luke 14, we read a parable where every excuse is made to not come to the table; the invitation is rejected by the self-righteous.  The ones who do accept the invitation are the poor, crippled, lame, and blind.

Do I respond to God’s invitation as self-righteous?  Am I overwhelmed by God’s compassion?  Am I angry at God’s guestlist?

When overwhelmed by God’s compassion, Jonah’s response was to flee.  May we not flee away from God’s banquet.  Rather, in humility may we come and celebrate all who are brought in to sit at the table.

-Matthew Holmes

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