Compassion without condemnation

When Mrs Booth, whose husband founded the Salvation Army, was just a girl, she was running by the road one day with her hoop and stick when she saw a prisoner being dragged by a Constable to the city jail. A mob of onlookers had gathered to hoot and holler at the culprit, who walked with his head hung low - the picture of guilt and shame. His image of utter loneliness tugged at this young girl's heart strings. It seemed to her that he didn't have a friend in the entire world. She quickly sprang to his side and marched, head high and a smile on her face, all the way to the prison with him. She was determined to let him know that, guilty or not, there was at least one soul that had compassion on him.

Too often we are willing to let a 'guilty party' take the full brunt of their punishment, or wallow in their misery, without comfort or words of consolation and encouragement. The issue may not be crime but may be divorce or estrangement. The best way to restore a person to a relationship with both God and the offended party, however, is not to let the person remain alone to become fearful or bitter, but rather to reach out in love and provide support.

This does not mean that you condone the action, but it does mean that you refuse to condemn the person. It is unfortunately a human trait to condemn others, and who knows how many suicides have occurred after people have been condemned and lost all hope. Very often, those who deserve love the least, need it the most.

Jesus Christ set a new standard for His followers. In the gospel of Matthew, Chapter 5, verse 44 he said, "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you."

Within a couple of years Jesus was put to the test, to see if He could live up to the teaching that he gave his disciples. He was arrested, even though he had not committed a felony, was mocked and beaten until he was unrecognisable. He was then nailed to a cross suffering a painful death. As the soldiers and others ridiculed him he cried out to God, "Father, forgive them for do not know what they are doing."

His death was substitutionary, he died in our place, the perfect sacrifice for our imperfect lives. If we could all be a little more like Jesus, compassionate without condemnation and abounding in forgiveness, this world would be a far better place.

Pam Sammut, Tenterfield Community Church