Quick, what’s the first word that describes God that comes to your mind? Don’t think too much, just the first word. For me, it’s usually holy. But what if we were to ask God? How would God answer the question?
Exodus 34:6-7 details the only time in the Bible that Yahweh describes himself. I don’t know about you, but I’m waiting with bated breath to see what he will say. I’ve got my own Top 10 terms to describe God, but where does an infinite God begin when he describes himself?
And here comes #1: <queue the drumroll> Compassionate and Gracious!
There’s a lot that could be written about these virtues, both in our understanding of God and in our own lives. Since my sermon focused on demonstrating God’s compassion, I won’t rehash it, but you can listen via the link at the top of the page. 🙂
My fundamental question today is this: If Christians function as ambassadors representing God to the world, what God are we presenting? In an ideal system not only would God first identify himself as compassionate and gracious, but that answer would be on the tip of the church’s tongue also. Furthermore, if we’re carrying out our commission of representing God, those around us would also regard God as compassionate and gracious.
- At times, we struggle to communicate God’s compassion and grace is that both of these virtues involve colouring outside the lines. I find it fascinating that in Exodus 34:1 God hands the 10 Commandments to Moses and in v6 he describes himself as compassionate. That’s a wonderful tension that we continue to struggle with to this day: Law vs Grace, Command vs Compassion. Commands seem neat and clear, but compassion seems subjective, situational, and messy. For this reason many Christians are oriented toward the “clarity” of commands over compassion.
- Churches also struggle to project God’s compassion due to introversion. We have more than enough opportunities to love the people we know well. Our congregations contain numerous people in need of God’s compassion and we’re eager to minister to them. As we scurry around serving and loving each other we overlook the needs of those around us, so naturally, they never think of us as compassionate.
- Despite experiencing God’s grace in our lives, Christians still find ourselves susceptible to finger pointing. Sometimes it’s easier to point outwhy someone’s in difficulty than it is to rescue them from their circumstances.
- I’ve encountered some Christians who want to restrict the practice of compassion and grace to the preaching of the Gospel (where Gospel has a very narrow definition). Although followers of Christ understand that the cross and resurrection of Jesus address our greatest need, forgiveness and restored relationship with God, the world doesn’t have the same perspective. It beggars belief in my mind that anyone can take the numerous Scriptural exhortations to love, compassion, kindness, humility, and service and limit them to preaching the Five Steps of Salvation!
[God] was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. Luke 15:20 That’s my God!! He has compassion for me. He runs to me when I seek him. He wraps me in his arms. And he plants a kiss on my cheek. What a wonderful God!!!
- What words do you think your unchurched neighbours would use to describe God?
- What are some additional barriers that limit churches and individuals sharing God’s compassion and grace with those around us?