While attending a conference, something I was challenged about is being able to see people the way Jesus does. To illustrate this, we looked at one passage from the parable of the Prodigal Son:
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with ___________.” — Luke 15:20
Fill in the blank. What do you think the father should have felt? Wrath? Anger? Hurt? Bitterness? How would you have felt? The word you choose to fill in this blank reveals a lot about your own heart and how close you are to Jesus’ heart.
The father in the story reflects Jesus’ own heart, and when Jesus looked at those who the world despised (and sometimes for good reason), His heart was filled with compassion. There are many other times recorded in the gospels that Jesus was filled with compassion:
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. — Mark 6:34
Then a leper came to Jesus, begging on his knees: “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” He said, “Be clean.” — Mark 1:41
When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said, “Don’t cry.” — Luke 7:13
These encounters with Jesus reveal His heart to us. And I am reminded that if I want to be like Jesus, I need to see the people I encounter with the same compassion of Jesus.
These passages are also a reminder that Jesus had compassion on me, loving me even when I was far from Him. And He continues to love me like that today. The more I reflect on that love, the more I realise both that I do not deserve to be loved like this because I don’t love like this.
Wait. Stop a minute. Let me just restate what I wrote. That phrase, ‘I don’t deserve to be loved like this,’ reveals how poorly I understand God’s love. How do we think we deserve to be loved? If you’re like me, you think you deserve to be loved based on how well you love others. In fact, that’s how we usually love others: based on how well we think they love. We tend to only love others who we think are deserving or worthy of our love. Imagine if God had loved us like that!
Instead, God loved us who were not deserving of His love, and He loved the ones who didn’t love like He did. This is why Jesus came and loved us even until death:
This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. — 1 John 4:10
God loves us unconditionally, regardless of how we have failed in loving others. This means God loves me this way even though I do not love others in this same way. How humbling! God’s love pulls at my heart and makes me want to love others with the same love that I have been shown.
It makes me yearn to grow to be like Jesus, to reflect His love more and more—a love that is filled with compassion for the undeserving.
I pray we will all know this love.