Psalm 112:4 states that the upright person is full of compassion because he receives spiritual enlightenment and insight from the Lord: “Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness; He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous” (Psalm 112:4, NKJV). Even in darkness, the godly can see what others cannot because they see with divinely illuminated eyes. Besides gaining the powers of heavenly perception, the upright person receives a gracious heart full of compassion and righteousness because these are attributes of God’s character.
Indeed, “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion” (Psalm 111:4, NKJV). By nature, He is imbued with tenderness, kindness, and compassion (Psalm 119:156; Joel 2:13; 2 Corinthians 1:3; James 5:11). God’s compassion is closely related to His love and mercy. Compassion is a deep empathy for those who are in need. To be compassionate, in the original biblical languages is to have mercy, to feel sympathy, and to have pity.
The compassion of God makes Him acutely aware of and sympathetic to the weakness of humans. King David declared, “But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth” (Psalm 86:15, NKJV). Out of compassion, God hears when troubled humans cry to Him for help (Isaiah 49:13; Exodus 22:27; Psalm 40:1–2, 11–12).
Throughout His Word, God shows that He is full of compassion and forgiveness toward sinners (Psalm 51:1–2; Isaiah 54:7–8; Daniel 9:9; Jeremiah 12:15; Lamentations 3:22). Although the Lord hates sin and vows to bring judgment on sinners (Job 34:21–27; Psalm 1:4–6; Romans 2:12–16; 2 Peter 2:4–9), His heart longs to see every sinner repent so that He does not have to mete out His judgment (Isaiah 55:6–7; 2 Chronicles 7:14; Matthew 4:17; 1 John 1:9). To the stiff-necked and rebellious who forget all that the Lord has done for them, He is still “a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love” (Nehemiah 9:17). Even after God’s people committed great evil and blasphemies, Nehemiah testified, “Yet whenever your people turned and cried to you again for help, you listened once more from heaven. In your wonderful mercy, you rescued them many times!” (Nehemiah 9:28, NLT).
The most profound and extravagant expression of God’s compassion is in Jesus Christ, His Son, whom He sent to be our Savior (Luke 1:78–79). Jesus’ ministry was filled with compassion: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36, NLT). Moved by compassion, Jesus healed the sick (Matthew 14:14; 20:34; Mark 8:2), comforted the grieving (Luke 7:13; 8:50; John 11:33–35), fed the hungry (Matthew 15:32), offered rest to the weary and burdened (Matthew 11:28–29), and ministered salvation to the lost (Matthew 9:36; John 8:10–11).
In the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18:21–35), Jesus illustrated the depth of compassion that should fill the heart of every believer. Just as the master took pity and forgave his servant’s debt, we must be willing to forgive others and cancel their debts. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37) and the Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11–32), Jesus continued to define the attitude of compassion that ought to capture the hearts of His followers.
Jesus is the physical embodiment of compassion. He experienced human sorrow, pain, and temptation (Hebrews 4:15). Because we are helpless—powerless to save ourselves—Christ became one of us so that He could rescue us (John 1:14; Philippians 2:6–7). Scripture beautifully expresses how “Jesus, through his suffering,” became “a perfect leader,” the only being fit to bring us to salvation. Christ “became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death” (Hebrews 2:10–18, NLT). Jesus took away our sins through His compassionate sacrifice on our behalf and saved us from eternal death.
Because our God is gracious, righteous, and full of compassion (Psalm 116:5), He calls His chosen children to clothe themselves “with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” toward one another (Colossians 3:12). The apostle Paul urged believers to “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). Jesus is our perfect model to follow (Luke 10:36–37; John 13:34; 17:18; Philippians 2:1), and He is our ever-present helper, equipping and filling us with the divine power and inspiration to love others with His compassion.