Well, let me ask you a couple of questions as we start. Are you known as a compassionate counselor? If somebody was walking up and talking to you, or your friends, would they view you as a compassionate counselor? Do others see Christ’s compassion demonstrated in your words and actions? As biblical counselors, we learn, and even throughout the sessions, we’ve had here that it’s always about our attitudes and our actions, right? Our attitudes have to be right and our actions to be Christlike. But do others really see that in us as biblical counselors and disciplers? Are we compassionate people?
Let me just give you a couple of examples here to start. In Isaiah 40:10 the prophet is talking about the greatness of God. In releasing Judah from captivity, Isaiah, the prophet says this, “Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm, He will gather the lambs and carry them in the fold of His robe; He will gently lead the nursing ewes (Isaiah 40:10-11).” Notice how God’s described as gentle.
In 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8, Paul writes, “But we proved to be gentle among you. As a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children, in the same way we had a fond affection for you and were well pleased to impart to you not only the Gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.” We see here Paul’s gentleness toward the Thessalonians.
So, when you think about it, compassion is an indispensable element of biblical counseling because it reflects God’s heart. As we’ve seen in those couple examples. Therefore, it’s vital to understand authentic compassion and the impact it can have on people that we counsel. After all when you think about it, the essence of Christianity, our Christianity is compassion. Think about that. If you reduce the whole Bible down to one idea, it’s God’s story of redemption, isn’t it? And we think about the essence of redemption is compassion that God sent His only Son because He’s a compassionate God.
So, that begs the question and force. How do we as biblical counselors effectively come alongside someone with compassion? How do we do that? We want to talk about that a little bit today and just explore compassion.
Leo Buscaglia, some of you may have remembered him, he died in 1998. He was an American author, motivational speaker, and he was a professor in the department of special education at USC University of Southern California. He once talked about a contest he was asked to judge. The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child. The winner was a four-year-old child whose next-door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry the little boy went into the gentleman’s yard climbed into his lap and just sat there.
Picture that in your mind. You can see what’s going on. Beautiful picture, isn’t it? When his mother asked him what he had said to the neighbor. The little boy said, “Nothing, I just helped him cry.”
I just helped him cry…
Isn’t that neat? That little boy’s actions beautifully illustrate the essence and meaning of compassion, biblical compassion. He demonstrated biblical love by weeping with those who weep. Compassion motivates people to go out of their way to help with the physical and spiritual needs of another.
Biblical Overview of Compassion
I just want to give you a few examples here. Think about this, it was out of compassion that God, by a miraculous act of power delivered the Israelites from Egyptian bondage and called them to be His own people. Nothing, therefore, is more prominent even in the Old Testament than the acknowledgment of the compassion of God, beautifully stated in Exodus chapter 34:6. Here He was renewing the covenant with Moses. Exodus 34:6 Moses writes, “then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed. The Lord the Lord God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness and truth.” God is compassionate, isn’t He?
God speaking through, Moses to Israel, in Deuteronomy 4:31 says this, “For the Lord, your God is a compassionate God. He will not fail you, nor destroy you, nor forget the covenant with your father’s, which He swore to them.” God is compassionate.
We see here that compassion is a big deal to God. Right before dinner, we heard a wonderful message from Brad Bigney about the glory of God. What a wonderful message. And we must stay focused on one of, you know, the Soli Deo Gloria, the glory of God. But compassion also is a big deal to God as well because He’s a compassionate God. These declarations are found throughout Scripture. God’s compassion was essential in maintaining the covenant with Israel and His people praised Him for it. Just a couple examples and there are many in the Psalms:
Psalm 103:8, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious slow to anger and abounding in loving-kindness.”
Psalm 145:8, “The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in loving-kindness.”
Then we see in the intertestamental literature and the New Testament continue to speak about God as the compassionate One. God’s compassion is also clearly seen in our Savior’s ministry among people. Let me give you a couple of examples here from the life of Jesus. Matthew 9:35-36, “and Jesus was walking was going about all the cities and the villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. And seeing the multitudes he felt compassion.”
He felt compassion. Now picture the Lord Jesus and His humanness, 100% perfect God-man. He felt compassion for people because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd. People who come to see us are distressed and downcast and we are called upon to come alongside them and shepherd them with great compassion.
Here’s another example, after hearing about the death of John the Baptist, Matthew records in Matthew 14:13-14, “Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat, to a secluded place by Himself. And when the people heard of this, they followed him on foot from the cities. When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.” Again, we see a beautiful example from the life of our Lord. He felt compassion for people. He was a compassionate man.
You know, it’s interesting for the Calvinists in the crowd here; even the rich young ruler who rejected Him. Do you remember what Mark 10:20-22 says, “And Jesus looking at him, loved him.” Jesus felt compassion, even for those who rejected Him. He felt a great love for even the rich young ruler. It’s interesting, isn’t it?
What did Paul teach about compassion? Now think about this as biblical counselors we’re taught Ephesians 4, Colossians 3, put off renew your mind and put on. It’s interesting Colossians 3:12-13. The whole put-on section here that Paul is teaching us. Colossians 3:12-13, “So as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility…” and so forth and so on. Put on a heart of compassion. It’s interesting that that is at the start of the list, isn’t it?
So, we see from the life of our Lord and in the life of Paul that they were compassionate men. They understood true compassion. It’s at the forefront of their mind and their ministry.
Biblical meaning of compassion
The biblical meaning of compassion. It’s interesting the Hebrew and the Greek words bear broader meanings, such as to show pity towards somebody. To love someone as we just illustrated in Christ looking at the rich young ruler who rejected Him. He loved him. It has a deep sense of love. It has a deep sense to show mercy.
Other synonyms for compassion in English are: to be loved; to show great concern for someone.
Here’s another biblical word in English: to be tender-hearted. To be tender-hearted is the idea of biblical compassion and also in English as the idea to act kindly towards somebody else.
So these ideas to show pity, to love, to show mercy, to show great concern for, to be tender-hearted are all caught up in the Hebrew, the Old Testament, and the New Testament Greek words for compassion. Now it’s also interesting, just by way of footnote as I was thinking through this is that the issue of compassion is not unique to Christians. In fact, you’re familiar with one non-believer in Scripture who portrays compassion beautifully.
Do you want to take a guess in the Old Testament who I’m thinking of? Exodus 2:5-6, “The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the Nile while her maidens walking alongside the Nile, and she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid and she brought it to her. When she opened it, she saw the child and behold the boy was crying. And she had pity on him and said, ‘this is one of the Hebrews children.'” Here’s Pharaoh’s daughter. A non-Christian having taking pity on, who? Who was in the basket, Moses? Interesting how Moses goes on and then later in Exodus describes God’s compassion to us. God is a compassionate God.
Now, let’s look at two biblical illustrations regarding compassion. First, I want to contrast empty compassion, and then we’ll look at encouraging compassion, so take your Bibles and turn to James 2. We’re going to look at an illustration here of empty compassion.
a) Empty Compassion
Here’s an illustration where somebody says that they have compassion, but they don’t take action to demonstrate that. It’s an illustration here that James is talking about within the broader context of an inoperative faith, faith without works is dead. And he gives us a beautiful illustration within this context here within the sin of partiality. Actually, in this portion of Scripture, James 2:1-17 about what dead faith looks like.
But in the midst of this conversation about dead faith, it gives us an illustration of what empty compassion looks like. And it’s a good model for us of what not to do or to be. Let’s pick it up in James 2:2-4, “For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes. And there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes. And you pay a special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes. And say, ‘you sit here in a good place.’ And you say to the poor man, ‘you stand over there or sit down by my footstool.’ Have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil motives?” Now skip down to verse 9, “But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all for he who said do not commit adultery also said, do not commit murder. Now, if you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So, speak and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty, for judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
He then flows into his illustration of empty compassion, skip down to verse 15, “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food and one of you says to them, go in peace, be warmed, and be filled. And yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body. What use is that? Even so, faith, if it has no works, is dead being by itself.”
Now let me make a few comments here related to our topic on compassion. Notice verses 15 and 16, “go in peace, be warmed and be filled without giving them the things needed for the body. Saying, what good is that?” What good is that you really showing compassion? It’s empty. Go in peace. It’s interesting, I don’t know if you’ve thought about this, it’s a typical Jewish farewell similar to our phrase “God bless you.” Coming from North Carolina. We often hear, “Oh, bless your heart”, “God bless you.” Here, among the Jewish Christians and Jewish people, that was a typical farewell, “go in peace.” But James is asking what good are sentimental or pious words if the pressing needs of food and clothing are neglected? What good is that to say go and peace be warmed and be filled? And it’s still used in Palestine today to get rid of people. Basically, it means God help you, but don’t expect me to help you.
Not that any of us have ever had any empty compassion ourselves to say, “Well, call me if you need something.”
We’ve experienced this both on the receiving end of people saying, “Well, call me if you need anything” or “God bless you” or “go in peace.” But oftentimes, we don’t really take the action behind it to show compassion. So, he’s making the point here. Professed faith with no desire to act is empty compassion. Be warmed and be filled, but I’m not going to meet that need. 1 John 3:17-18. John says, “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 love not in word or talk but in deed and truth.”
Deed and Truth. What good is that? If it’s an empty profession, what is the profit? So, James is asking a rhetorical question in verse 14. If someone says he has faith but does not have works, can that faith save him? The rhetorical answer is what? No! No, it’s an empty profession and it’s empty compassion. James is combating, this empty talk. It’s a beautiful illustration for us in this text regarding the illustration of dead faith and empty compassion.
Sometimes, it’s the equivalent as I was saying “I’ll pray for you,” when we can do something to alleviate the person suffering even more. It’s sort of, again, “I’ll pray for you.” That’s a bit safe, isn’t it? How many times have we said to somebody who may have more needs than just prayer? With the physical needs that he’s talking about here. Whether it’s clothing, shelter, food, or whatever. Oftentimes we say the pious Christian line of “I’ll pray for you,” but we don’t really want to get involved.
So, no wonder he concludes in James 2:17, “So also faith by itself. If it does not have works is dead.” This verse is the moral of the illustration. Faith by itself, if it has no works, or is not accompanied by actions is dead faith. What a great illustration for us. Don’t tell me, show me your faith. Don’t tell me that you have compassion for people and you’re not going to meet the need. Show me by your actions. You must convince me by the evidence of your faith that you are for real.
So, it’s a great illustration for us within the context there, of a dead faith. We should not have empty compassion, but compassion that is encouraging. Let’s contrast that now with another positive illustration so turned Luke 10:25-37, the parable of the good Samaritan. Let’s contrast empty confession with encouraging compassion.
b) Encouraging Compassion
Now keep in mind here again the broader context. The main point here is, how does one inherit eternal life? The lawyer was wrongly questioning Jesus thinking that if he kept God’s laws, he could in return acquire eternal life. Jesus uses the parable of the Good Samaritan to give him one more clear insight into his own sinfulness and to cry out for salvation. But for our purposes today, I want to look at the story from the eyes of the good Samaritan as he beautifully illustrates. It’s interesting to note that I talked about Pharaoh’s daughter likewise here we have no evidence textually and so forth that the Samaritan was a believer. So, we have another example here of potentially a non-Christian reaching out to the person who was beat up in this text. Let’s look at it. Start in Luke 10:30, I’ll skip down to there because we’re looking for purposes of illustration about encouraging compassion and what it looks like from the viewpoint of the good Samaritan.
Luke 10:30, “Jesus replied and said, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. And by chance, a priest was going down on that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side,”—Not that we’ve ever done this ourselves right?—”Likewise, a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan who was on a journey, came upon him and when he saw him, he felt compassion and came to him and bandaged up his wounds pouring oil and wine on them.”—Notice what he’s doing—”and he put him on his own beast and brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘take care of him and whatever more you spend. When I return, I will repay you.’ Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?’ And the lawyer said, ‘The one who showed mercy toward him.’ Then Jesus said, ‘go and do the same.'”
Now, I want to make a few observations here. He was stripped, assaulted, beaten, and basically, left to die beside the road and they went off leaving him half dead. A certain Samaritan, they were then habitants of Samaria who descended from the non-Jewish colonists in 722 BC. Interestingly, all three saw the one who had been stripped, beaten, and abandoned, but only one felt compassion, the good Samaritan. He felt compassion for him. They had no love for him, but the Samaritan did. So, what set him apart from the other two men? Our theme for today, compassion.
Compassion says, get involved. Reach Out. Take a risk. You can’t ignore this person’s needs. And that’s for us as biblical counselors to ponder. Get involved, reach out, take a risk. Sometimes it’s easier for us to say, “I’ll pray for you.” But without taking the risk, like the good Samaritan did. Notice his genuine concern in Luke 10:34: he went to him, he bound up his wounds, he poured oil and wine on them. He put him on his own animal and brought him to an end. He stayed the night, taking care of him. He picked up the bill and even promised to return and pay whatever further expenses might be incurred.
Reminds you of Jesus’ message on The Sermon on the Mount, doesn’t it? Someone asks you to walk one mile, go another one. If somebody takes your coat, give him your shirt off your back as well. The good Samaritan demonstrates and illustrates to us encouraging compassion. He got out, he took a risk, he got involved. It’s interesting when you think about it. The lawyer was trying to justify himself and has to question Jesus, “who is my neighbor?” Notice how Jesus turns that around. The lawyer asked which person really qualifies to be my neighbor, but what Jesus is turning it to be is, “what kind of neighbor am I?”
What kind of neighbor are you? Are you like the good Samaritan? That points the finger in our direction, doesn’t it? The real question is my neighbor’s neighbor (namely me) compassionate? Am I a compassionate Christian? Am I a compassionate counselor? Am I willing to take a risk and get involved where necessary with a counselee? Am I a compassionate counselor? Am I demonstrating encouraging compassion like the good Samaritan? Am I willing to take that risk and reach out? Because this is a story of a limitless love and compassion This is how we treat our counselees. To be a compassionate counselor we are to realize that there are needs all around us. Each one awaiting a tangible demonstration of compassion and that involvement demonstrates our love for Christ. The umbrella is to glorify God in all that we do and compassion needs to be a huge part of that. To glorify God by being compassionate counselors.
Now, there are two biblical illustrations contrasting the empty compassion from James 2 versus encouraging compassion as illustrated by the good Samaritan. With those thoughts in mind, let’s apply this as counselors and disciplers.
Over many years of pastoral ministry. I’ve thought about this and have counseled thousands and thousands of hours and have spoken to many people about compassion and what has helped those at the lay level, people like yourselves who are continuing their education, and people that have their masters degrees in biblical counseling. They have given me much feedback and I want to share some of their thoughts with you as we apply these texts from Scripture. Thinking through this topic in our remaining time of how we can apply this to our own respective counseling.
So, I’m going to be quoting some actual phrases from people that I’ve talked to over many years and give you some of their insights and what we need to be careful about as biblical counselors.
Trust God throughout the counseling process.
During people’s difficult trials, as we seek to show them compassion. What must we do? First, we need to trust God. Throughout the counseling process, we must turn to Him. Why is that? Well, in 2 Corinthians 5:20 Paul reminds us, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
We’re ambassadors. But am I trusting God throughout the counseling process? As we’ve heard from her plenary speakers, sometimes, we don’t get prayed up and we’re running on our own steam. We can get too busy in ministry. Whether you’re a layperson here or full-time ministry, vocational ministry, like me as a pastor, sometimes we get caught up in our own steam. We’re not trusting God throughout the process. And that’s so important because we’re ambassadors for Christ, first and foremost, we’re His children, and we must stay tapped into our heavenly Father. Isaiah 41:10 says, “Do not fear. For I am with you do not anxiously look about you for I am your God.”—Even during difficult counseling situations—”I will strengthen you surely. I will help you surely. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” But we must be constantly looking to our heavenly Father to supply that in our own lives by trusting Him.
Here’s another Proverb. I love Proverbs and would commend them to you to read that in your daily devotional. I love to read a Proverb a day. And recently, this one jumped out at me. Proverbs 3:3-4, “Do not let kindness and truth leave you. Bind them around your neck. Write them on the tablet of your heart. So, you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man.” That’s a great two verses there. Proverbs 3:3-4, “bind, kindness, and truth around you, may they never leave you, you’ll find favor with God and man.” Do we want to be good counselors? Then let’s bind these things compassion and kindness around our neck.
One counselee put it this way, “Tell me that it’s okay to bring my fears and questions to God. Tell me that it’s okay as a counselor to do that then help me to find the answers.” What’s God’s perspective on that? But our counselees need to feel safe to come to us and to share the deepest thoughts that are on their heart. And this lady expresses, “tell me it’s okay.” And we need to show this kindness and truth to these types of people.
Pray for wisdom.
Pray before you counsel with folks and disciple. Pray for wisdom. James 1:5, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all generously and without reproach and it will be given to him.” Pray for wisdom. This is so basic and I’m sure you’ve heard it before but it’s so important that we are praying.
Again, over many years of pastoral ministry I have found that when I’m not prayed up, oftentimes the counseling doesn’t go that well. And it’s not necessarily the council least fault. It’s me because I’m not prayed up and I’m not asking God for wisdom. And I think, “okay, I’ve heard this scenario before, I can handle it. Chapter and verse, I know where to go etcetera…”
But it’s a good reminder for us. Pray for wisdom. People need a compassionate person to talk to, a person like Jesus. Jesus was always approachable. Ask yourself this question: Am I easy to talk to? Am I approachable? What’s my body language as a counselor?
The people that you’re ministering to and your respective ministries, do they think you’re approachable? Are you easy to talk to?
Be a great listener
Again, I can’t overemphasize that it’s in our basic training. All these years, be a good listener, but it’s so critical to be compassionate this way. Proverbs 18:13, you’ve heard it many times and it’s even quoted in our plenary sessions here at this conference. “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him” (Proverbs 18:13). Why is this so important? Because each person’s experience is unique. Even if we’ve heard the same scenario 10 times before this person’s a new person in their circumstances are unique. So, invite them as they go through their trials, to share their thoughts and their feelings with you rather than presuming that you know what the issues are for him.
We have to guard against that. Even if you have great experience as Proverbs 13:15 reminds us, “through presumption comes nothing but strife.” We must be careful not to presume what we’re hearing. We cannot be thinking, “I know what chapter and verse to pull out.” We must listen carefully. Compassionate counseling comes from listening and that takes time which in turn takes wisdom, patience, and understanding.
Another counselee puts it this way, “Don’t be afraid to ask me hard questions.” That’s okay, that we ask hard questions, the “what” questions and “where” and “how” and “what were you thinking?” Those are all appropriate to ask good hard questions, but we must ask them with great wisdom, patience, and understanding and that takes a listening ear. Proverbs 20:5, “A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, but a man of understanding draws it out.” Are we men and women of understanding? So that we can draw people out of what’s going on in there.
Here’s another quote from somebody who’s been trained in biblical counseling, they are a good example for us, “A compassionate biblical counselor, not only takes time to listen but understands how to ask probing questions that demonstrate an attempt to hear and to understand, as well as helping the counselee come to an understanding of themselves before God.” Now, this is a good statement by this person. It’s the difference from being told what the problem is versus discovering, what the problem is through the gentle guidance of another person. That’s the plan in the heart of man that is like deep water, but a man of understanding (hopefully us) will draw that out. So again, we have to be careful not to be presumptive and tell them what the problem is, but to draw that out and to guide them according to God’s Word. This person goes on to say, “the latter takes skill, patience, and compassion to bring the counselee along to an understanding.” These are all components taught in ACBC and biblical counseling movements but are often overlooked areas as more focus is spent on the theological study and the actual body of instruction that will be given to a counselee. Oftentimes, it is not the teaching that will make the most difference to a counselee, but simply the listening.”
Now that those are good reminders. Again, this is from folks who have had biblical counseling training. It’s good reminders for us, isn’t it? Oftentimes we overlook this because the theology and our instruction are vital tools and important, but we can never overlook compassion, the basic beginnings of good listening skills. I sat in on Monday evening, Garrett Higbee’s talk about angry teens and their parents. I appreciate as a parent who’s almost an empty nester. Garrett reminded us when you ask questions and be a good listener and so forth ask non-assuming questions. Don’t have canned responses. As a biblical counselor get to know the heart of your child. Ask them non-assuming questions. What do they take interest in? Get into their world without expecting a certain answer even though we may know what they may respond with but to ask not assuming questions. I thought that’s a great reminder about the importance of listening and asking questions of our counselees with compassion and understanding to be a good listener.
Also, let me give you this tip too that I have to remind myself of. Sometimes we ask good questions, and the person may be sitting in your office, or wherever you may be, and they’re thinking things through. It’s okay to let silence linger. Often, we want to fill in the gaps with a quick answer or something. Letting silence linger can give them time to able to cement something in their mind. Something that maybe you just said or as you listen to them or time to bring something out the counselee would not otherwise remember or share. So sometimes shared silence is okay, and I’ve seen that in counselees where they need time to think through things. Sometimes they’re pondering what to say next and we’re ready to jump in and wax eloquent on a biblical point when we should just remain quiet and listen. Of course, the lesson of Job’s counselors, right? Let’s listen. Be careful what we say.
Comfort others with the comfort God has given you
Often, it can be helpful to share what we’ve been through but be careful with that. You don’t want to come out with that too quickly. Again, each person’s experience is unique. We want to gather a lot of information and know where they’re coming from. But there are times in places in cases where the compassion that God has helped us through in our trials, will be very beneficial in your counseling, to comfort them with what they’re going in is through a similar trial or circumstances. Our own trials can help us have increased compassion toward people. That’s why we shouldn’t look at trials as a negative thing, but a positive thing James 1:2-4, “consider it all joy my brethren. When you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith, produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result that you may be more mature and complete in Christ.” But we don’t often view it that way and neither does your counselee. But we should, because as God grows us that level of compassion should grow right along with it so that we can help others. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 is a great text for this. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, “Blessed be the God, and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our afflictions, so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort, with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours and abundant, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.”
So there are going to be times where the things that God has put you through or allowed you to go through, lend to compassion that comes in handy. It’s sort of like a mother that puts a Band-Aid on the skinned knee of her daughter who foolishly jumped off the sofa onto the hardwood floor. She offers a reassuring hug and a shoulder to cry on while comforting her. She offers compassionate understanding knowing full well that a skinned knee is not the worst pain that her daughter’s ever going to experience in life, but at that moment, it is the significant pain to her, and she needs compassion along with instruction not to do that again.
We have to show compassion with her instruction, right? Compassion with our instruction, just like that mom coming around the child with a skinned knee. Why? Because she’s been through that, we’ve all had skinned knees, but in that moment, you’re showing great compassion to come alongside the daughter and to say, “Honey, it’s going to be okay, I understand your pain. I’ve been there and done that. It’s going to be okay.” She needs reassurance and then the proper instruction. “Hey, let’s not be jumping off the couch onto the floor.”
Don’t be clinical, but compassionate in your instruction
Many biblical counselors seem to have the spiritual gift of discernment. That’s a good thing but discernment without patience and love is not compassion. We must be careful that you can be speaking truth with the tongue of angels, but it is a clanging gong or symbol (1 Corinthians 13). You see again we must be compassionate in our instruction. If you have the gift of discernment, that’s a good thing. God’s given us these gifts, but we must be compassionate in our instruction.
Here’s another example from somebody that I’ve talked to over the years, says this, “Additionally, real life is more complicated than sterile contrived classroom examples.”—Not that all examples in the classroom were bad, of course—”But contrived classroom examples and operates real life operates more frequently in the gray areas.” It’s a good reminder to us. Life gets complicated sin twist things and it’s not easy.
Considering 1 Thessalonians 5:14 is the individual in front of you unruly, faint-hearted, or weak? Because depending on the condition they are in, the counseling method will be different. If you admonish the weak, you will crush them. But if you encourage the unruly, you only placate their sin.
They are not counselees detached from our emotion or our compassion. They are fellow brothers and sisters, joint heirs in Christ and they are likely a combination of all three. This means your counsel to them will take more time than you think it should as you peel back layer after layer and help them work through their issues and see their own hearts and motivations. Patience, wisdom, grace, love, and compassion are key.
Good reminders to us about compassion. How are we dealing with people? Even the elements of all three unruly, faint-hearted, and the weak? You can think of counselees like that, right? Those who are any of the three categories individually and those who are a combination of all the above, right?
Offer compassionate instruction
Too often, I think we get caught up in talking to the counselee more than we listen to them. We have to again, be very careful with that.
Here’s another illustration from someone, “Christ was strong with His instruction of truth, but He always demonstrated a true understanding of the individual because He knew their heart. Think of the woman at the well. Ropes, ladders, and living water. All those illustrations, what the woman at the well in John 4. Through thoughtful listening and probing questions, we can help a counselee feel understood, and even bring them to an understanding of their own heart that they might, otherwise have never known about themselves.”
Makes me think of Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me. All you who are weak and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Jesus was a master at being approachable teachable, He spoke the truth. He was hard with those who rejected Him the Pharisees and the Scribes when needed, but He was compassionate toward people in general.
Let me give you another example here from someone who wrote regarding the biblical decision-making process, “The counseling experiences that have meant the most to me were when I felt that I was truly listened to and not quickly assessed. Pigeon-holed into a counseling category, but when the counselor listened ask questions and eventually helped me to draw out what was it within my own heart with true understanding.” (It gets back to Proverbs 25, which we talked about, draw it out. What’s really there? What are the worshiping motives? All the things that we know to be true as we learn our theology, right?) “I was struggling with a decision to leave my home, family, and livelihood, and move across the country in pursuit of the potential for greater ministry growth. I sought wisdom from senior pastors and experienced biblical counselors. Many of them listen to my long-winded, explanations of the situation. But eventually, we’re ready with an answer of what they thought was the wise decision. The most impactful counsel came from those who didn’t give advice but instead listened, asked questions, and ultimately drew out, the desires of my heart. They helped me to see clearly what I was thinking and feeling in my heart and was able to make a decision on my own against the counsel of most of the men with confidence and faith in the decision, making process and the Lord’s will for my life. Instead of being told what to do. I was gently guided and how to discover what to do.”
That’s a good reminder for us, isn’t it? In some situations, we must instruct clearly. Somebody committing adultery it’s time to hear the sayeth the Lord, you need to cut that off and get back to your spouse. But in this situation, when it came to the decision-making process and preference issues here, it’s a good reminder to us. Instead of being told what to do, I was gently guided and how to discover, what to do based on biblical truths. It helps guide somebody even in personal biblical decision-making based on wisdom principles.
Sometimes we have that in our marriage counseling, don’t we? Sometimes people are separating going through tough times in their marriage. Sometimes, I wish God had the ABCs of how to reconcile this particular couple. There can be a lot of he-said-she-said and it gets sticky. It’s tricky and there’s not always that “thus, saith the Lord” that we can run to. We must apply many wisdom principles, and that takes time and patience with each different case that we deal with.
Follow up. Don’t give up on someone!
Say and do what is appropriate for the moment. A fitting Scriptural passage, a comforting word, even if it’s in a death scenario. The Psalms are especially helpful and comforting. Follow up with people by saying things like “what may I do for you” or suggest something that you can do for the person. How can I help you? What can I do for you?
Rather than the “call me, if you need me” kind of cliché that we throw about, ask “what may I do for you, how can I tangibly show compassion for you?” be specific such as, “I will come and go with you and be in the hospital with you before the surgery occurs. And I’ll be there to pray with you.” “We’re going to bring a meal over to your house.” Lots of basic things here that we can do to follow up with someone and not give up on them.
I served at Grace Community Church in San Fernando Valley, California, for many, many years. I’ll never forget way back when I first started as a pastor in 1994. There was a lady that I was sort of handed to hear Jim at fun working with this person who was basically barred from campus. Over time I got to know this person, and that took time. It took several years. But slowly, the walls began to come down. She was actually a Jewish convert came to Christ and she had the Spirit of God in her but she was very offensive to people and had not had role models in her life. But over time she changed because the Spirit of God was at work in her life. Some ten years later, she got married and came back to me and said, “Thanks for never giving up on me.”
Now that’s a long-term project, isn’t it? Some 15 years and so forth but she said, “God used you to help change my life.” Again, it’s not about me, but it’s a reminder to follow up and don’t give up on someone. Keep that in context. I realize there are times that we have to shut off counseling even with church discipline when the time for reaching out stops and other actions need to be taken, but if somebody is showing some baby steps and some baby fruit. Don’t give up on them because you never know what’s going to occur. This woman went on to impact other people because of what Christ did in her life over time. So often we plant the seeds, and we expect fruit overnight, don’t we? We get too antsy and expect them to begin eating steak when they are still at the milk stage, so don’t give up.
Now, I’m going to close with this illustration. Obviously, I had no idea when I wrote these things down was going to occur over the weekend in Las Vegas (there was a major shooting). Rachel Scott. Does that name ring a bell? Eighteen years ago, I didn’t know much about her, but she was the first person killed Tuesday, April 20th, 1999, at Columbine, High School in Littleton Colorado, by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. They murdered 12 students and one teacher, and they injured 21 others. Now this recent tragedy same type of thing. One month before her death Scott wrote a school essay entitled, My Ethics, My Codes of Life in which she stated her belief in the act of compassion being the greatest form of love that human beings should advocate for each other and her efforts to look for the beauty in everyone she met in her life. She stated her belief in the act of compassion. Here’s what she wrote in the essay quote, “My definition of compassion is forgiving, loving, helping, leading, and showing mercy for others.”
That’s a pretty good definition for us as biblical counselors, isn’t it ACBC?
She continued, “I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion (think of the biblical example, the Good Samaritan even Pharaoh’s daughter) then it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go.”
And her life was depicted in the movie of which I’ve seen about three times, I am Not Ashamed. If you haven’t seen that, you might want to check it out. Her life story, I am Not Ashamed. People will never know how far a little kindness can go. It’s interesting at the end of the film it states at the end there when the credits are coming up and so forth that some 22 million people have heard the message of Rachel Scott about compassion and her love for Jesus Christ. It’s interesting when Eric Harris, as portrayed in the movie, pointed the gun after they wounded her and said, “Do you still believe in your God? Where she says, “I do.” Then go be with Him.
What a testimony of strength and compassion. From this young girl, some 18 years ago. Now, we think of the folks in Las Vegas and some believers that may have killed the other day. And how much work is to be done. Like Heath has reminded us how much work needs to be done in our respective ministries around the world to show the compassion and Love of Christ. So thinking about Rachel Scott and the folks in Las Vegas. Now as we pray for them and our leaders and the Christians who can reach out to them. May we as biblical counselors who stand on God’s Word, have that kind of compassion that Rachel Scott demonstrates and as the good Samaritan demonstrates and ultimately of course is the Lord Jesus has demonstrated. May we show that kind of passion in our ministries. Some vital important topics that we need to continue to be reminded of the Compassion of Christ.