Limits On Compassion

God has a special concern for the oppressed, particularly for the widow and the fatherless. At all times, those who live by God’s Word, are to care for the fatherless and the widow.

We all know this, probably have heard it in church when the lady who started the “visit old ladies” program tried to guilt you into going and during the commercial about the starving orphans in Africa that needed your money.

Then we come to Psalm 109, a psalm that is quoted in the NT refering to Judas.

“Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.”

Oh, well that’s odd to wish that on someone, but maybe the psalmist is just looking for more people to show mercy too.

“Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places.”

Hmm, well, that verse might shoot the “mercy opportunity” application down. But again, maybe he wants to be the sole bread-winner for these fatherless children.

“Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let there be any to favour his fatherless children.”

Are there people we should not be showing mercy too? Are there people the Church should refuse to help? If you read the Bible, it certainly appears that way.

6 thoughts on “Limits On Compassion”

  1. Hey Jeff,
    My first response was no, but as I thought about this more, this is exactly what Bonhoeffer dealt with as a Pastor, there are cases in which we should not show mercy, instead we should take action against evil people.

  2. I think it should remain a rarely used option, one only done after prayer and thinking, but it can be the right thing at the right time. The default mode is love and mercy, but sometimes love removes mercy.

  3. If you look at Jesus, he showed great compassion to sinners, but was very confrontation with the religious crowd. Maybe this has to do with spiritual pride/poverty as much as anything else.

  4. It seems to me the removal of mercy is based on the hardness of the heart, romans 1 and 2. This is a difficult thing for us to know about others. Certainly pride is what hardens and pride is easily seen. But our decision to remove mercy from someone may just be our own pride! I think our default mode is love and mercy. But pride fed merely leads to more hardness, so to remove the mercy that really only fortifies another’s pride, is the right thing.

  5. John Frame — “It is possible to hate someone, opposing his plans and intentions, and asking God to judge him, while at the same time desiring his conversion. We should keep this in mind when we pray the imprecatory psalms.” (The Doctrine of God, p.461).

    John Piper — “It may be that, seeing with God’s eye, the psalmists discerned the irrevocable [never-changing] rebellion of their enemy and spoke judgment with the very Spirit of God.” (A Godward Life 1:183)

    Piper’s comment would mean that these psalms are not necessarily a model for us to pray — but are prayed because the psalmists by inspiration knew these people would never repent. But I agree Jeff, mercy is our default mode, also we need wisdom when we remove mercy because we don’t want to an enabler, some folks need to suffer the consequence for their poor choices. Suffering for a while on this earth to learn a valuable truth, is nothing compared to suffering for an eternity.

  6. In this case, regarding the prophecy and Judas, it is speaking about a certain class (of whom Judas is a representative) who have had all advantages to receive the truth, but instead, choose their own way of serving God, and betray the cause of truth when it needs support.

    These are not people who occasionally stumble or who are weak, but those who stubbornly and persistently refuse the Spirit of God, until they are so hardened they think that fighting against the truth is the best service they can do for God.

    Jesus referred to these people in his prophecy that the time would come when some would “kill you thinking they were doing God a service.” The Jewish leaders also committed this sin against the Holy Spirit, and Jesus said, “your house is left unto you desolate.” God simply stops trying to reach them anymore with the light of truth,

    It is quite possible for whole societies to become so hardened by sin (which does not need to be gross lusts, but can simply be persistently choosing my own way instead of the Lord’s way), that even their children are unreachable by the gospel. This has happened in the past: Sodom and Gomorrah, the world at the time of the flood. And it will happen again in the future, when the wrath of God is poured out in the 7 last plagues.

    This is why the prophecy you referred to speaks of families and children.

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