When we hear the word compassion we most often think of it in a context of suffering. We must be honest that it’s a lot easier to be compassionate for someone who is suffering, but what about someone who has wronged us, which is the context surrounding Eph. 4:32. Let’s take the examples from the previous verses—someone lied to you, someone was sinfully angry with you, someone stole from you and someone spoke rotten words to you. Christians are called to respond to those situations with tender-heartedness. In some ways, that seems wrong, doesn’t it? Why? Because we are not convinced compassion will accomplish anything good.
There are at least two things wrong with this thinking. The first is that compassion is always the best disposition to bring to the table. Compassionate obedience might take many different flavors, but it is always the correct choice, which leads to the other explanation of wrong thinking. We need to make sure we have the correct goal in mind. Do we have a personal goal or God’s goal? What do we really want?—To make the other person pay or demand that they change OR to honor and exemplify Christ. If our goal is the latter, compassionate obedience will always meet it.
Here are some questions to see where we are at with regards to exemplifying compassion: Generally speaking, are you able to enter in to another person’s plight even if their circumstances are the direct result of their sin or do you judge them in your heart with the thought that it’s perfectly right that they got what they deserved? If we often fall into the latter, we probably need to consider this: Do we want God to give us what we really deserve? Do we want God to withhold compassion and give us what our sins have earned? That answer is obvious and thus our compassion towards others should be just as obvious.