Counterproductive Compassion

Acts of kindness do not always produce favorable results. But true love disregards this fact and shows kindness anyway.

Imagine that you have a special ability to know in advance how people will respond to your kindness. Would this stop you from doing kind things for the people who will respond unfavorably? If you know in advance that a person will not thank you, will you show kindness anyway? If you know that they will take your generosity for granted, will you be generous anyway? And if you know that they will increase your heartache rather than your joy, will you do good to them still?

If you know in advance that a person will not thank you, will you show kindness anyway?

God insists on loving the unlovable, even when compassion produces counterproductive results. When Jesus healed the lame man in John 5:1-16, he exhibited this divine impulse.

  1. He asked the man if he desired to be healed. The man replied with a sarcastic, roundabout answer (John 5:6-7). Jesus healed him anyway.
  2. The man walked away without saying thank you (John 5:9). Jesus healed him anyway.
  3. When certain Jews criticized him for breaking Jewish traditions, this man shifted blame to Jesus (John 5:10-11). Jesus healed him anyway.
  4. Jesus approached the man a second time to explain how to avoid a relapse or something worse. The man failed to thank him again. Instead, he returned to identify Jesus to the critics (John 5:14-15). Jesus helped him anyway.

Perhaps I’m wrong, but it appears that this man never turned to Jesus for spiritual salvation, forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Rather than producing a disciple, this act of kindness produced more trouble for Jesus instead (John 5:16). He showed compassion anyway. Do you love people this way?

The Apostle Paul explains this kind of love in a letter to the Christians at Corinth:

I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved. (2 Cor. 12:15)

Does this describe your attitude towards people you serve? At home? At church? At work? In your community? It is a supernatural kind of love. We do not love this way naturally. In fact, the behavior of Jesus in John 5:1-16 is just one of many clues in the Gospel of John that Jesus was more than a man. He was God.

Rely on Jesus to love people in this divine way.

So if you have believed on Jesus for your own salvation, then you have the amazing opportunity to rely on him to love people in this divine way. And now is as good a time as any to get started!

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