Reflex of Compassion

1 John 3

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

1 John 3:16-18
“This is how we know love: Jesus laid down his life for us. We too ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has worldly possessions and sees his brother in need but has no compassion on him, how can the love of God be in him? Little children, let us not love with words and tongue but with action and truth.”

When I was young, I can remember the amazement I felt when my pediatrician would test my reflexes with the triangle-shaped mallet. I loved seeing how the right kind of impact would prompt an immediate  physical response. Without even trying, my leg would immediately move. Even as a grown(ish) man I still secretly look forward to that part of the doctor’s visit! Our reading yesterday wrapped up with the exhortation to live a sacrificial life of love in response to the unlimited patience of Jesus. Our devotion to love others evolves naturally from His devotion to love us. It is a like a reflex. When truly struck by the redemptive love of Jesus, a love for others is automatic.

Yet where is the love today? How often do we turn a blind eye to suffering? How often do we pass by the homeless pretending they aren’t really there? Even in our small town, there are a couple that come to mind who wander about aimlessly. We all hear that still small voice suggesting we do something, yet often our selfish sense of urgency wins and we go on about our day. When Jesus looks at someone and has compassion on them, the Greek communicates an intense gut-feeling, an impetus to react with love. What would it look like if there was an intentional act of kindness in the name of Jesus for every Facebook post about Jesus? What if we were a people who lived truly sanctified lives of obedience to the Holy Spirit? The world would be radically changed into the upside-down, inside-out kingdom of God that Christ desires. Holistic healing and transformation would spread faster than COVID. Isaiah spoke against the empty religiosity of Israel, indicting them with these words: “they honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me”. Doing and hearing are two different things. Let us be obedient “doers” of the Word, not merely listening to what it says (see James 1:22).

The current climate of the world is one which invites penitence and repentance. God has our attention and now is the time to respond “Here am I Lord!” We have an amazing opportunity right now to change what we care about. We can realign our priorities to mirror the priorities of Jesus and embody His love to the lost and the least. The prophetic tradition called Israel to action. That same spirit of prophecy is still alive and challenging us to grow today. How will you respond?

When we are truly born again (see John 3 for this crucial passage), we begin a spiritual journey with Jesus. As we draw near to Jesus, our hearts begin to break for those things which break His heart. We begin to see as He sees. We begin to love as He loves. We walk with the Spirit and bear the fruit of the Spirit, even when doing so is uncomfortable or inconvenient. All this is possible because Jesus laid down his life for us. I want to close us with this charge from the apostle Paul: “Be imitators of God, therefore as dearly loved children, and live a life of love… just as Christ first loved us and gave himself for us…” (Ephesians 5:1).


  1. What intentional act of kindness can you perform in the name of Jesus today?
  2. How can we grow the spiritual gift of compassion?


Father in a world of noise and distraction, I seek your still small voice. Like Elijah in the cave, I desperately long for your appearance. Draw me near enough to hear your whisper. Draw me close enough to feel your breath. Reveal to me the paths to travel and actions to take. Grant me the courage to respond in a way that pleases your Spirit. Open my eyes to suffering and move me to act in love. I pray this in the name of Jesus, Amen.

Zac Holt, April 29, 2020
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