Mingling Oil with Vinegar

15 Mar

The church often seems to care the least about the people who are the most desperate for care and sometimes seems to show the least care to people in the times when they are greatest need for that care.

When we think a person deserves our compassion, we show it. But, isn’t that a bit ironic? Isn’t that sort of the exact opposite of how God shows His compassion towards us? When caring about them isn’t going to make our life more difficult, we show compassion. But again, where did Jesus’ compassion take Him? It is called the cross.

All too often when a person is difficult or is in a situation that would make our life more difficult, our compassion and care sometimes seems to evaporate and the opposite sort of attitudes take their place very quickly. Instead of words of encouragement, we gossip, instead of coming to their side, we remove ourselves from them, instead of being patient, we become overly rigorous towards them.

This obviously should not be, but because it is such a common practice, we may need strong motivation to show compassion to those who need compassion. John Calvin gives it. Here are ten good reasons from John Calvin’s sermons on Ephesians.

1. When we despise a person we dishonor God.

2. We share a common bond with that person in that we both were made in God’s image.

3. We must think when we see a despised person that he is our neighbor, and if he is a believer, our brother. In fact the Bible goes further and says that we are one, therefore we must look at that person as if he were our own flesh and bone.

4. Our miseries move God to be merciful to us. So the miseries that are in our neighbors ought to be like spurs to prick us and provoke us to be pitiful to them.

5. If they are unrepentant, that gives me all the more reason to show pity. Ought I not to have pity when I see a soul that is deceived by Satan’s subtlety and going to face judgment?

6. We wish others to be compassionate to us.

7. The most perfect man has some infirmity, insomuch that if men would treat him altogether rigorously, he would be disdained and even set aside and rejected.

8. When we see a man who has some blemish, it is likely that we struggle with the same or at least something similar. In fact, it may be the reason we see the sin so quickly is that we struggle with the sin ourselves.

9. Lack of compassion will cause us to be overly rigorous and if we are overly rigorous, we are likely to deal the situation in a way that makes everything worse.

10. Each one of us should learn to turn his anger against himself, seeing there are many vices in himself similar to what he condemns in his neighbor.

Obviously these reasons for compassion aren’t a call to ignore our own sins or others, but instead they are as Calvin puts it, “a holding of ourselves in check, and a tempering of our rigor in such a way that oil may always be mingled with our vinegar.”

One Response to “Mingling Oil with Vinegar”

  1. Joe Lima March 15, 2012 at 7:39 am #

    What a great post. Sadly most will just walk past without a care. The word we so easily associate with Jesus is “compassion” and it is one we so blithely ignore, all the while claiming that we are being conformed to His image.

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