I’m in my-mid forties, divorced, and lonely. I love God and want to follow His plan for sex and marriage, but I just can’t find a man who is willing to share that journey with me. I’m not the naive young woman “saving sex for marriage” like I was in my twenties. I’m an adult with longings and needs. I don’t think God would judge me for having sex with the men I’m dating.
The email above represents many of the questions you might be asking about sex. Either you or someone you love wants permission to do something you know isn’t biblical—leave a marriage, cheat on a spouse, sleep with a boyfriend, or pursue a same-sex relationship. The reason? You are in pain. The justification? God is a God of love and compassion who would surely want to rescue us from such pain and usher us into happiness.
Compassion is a wonderful trait for us to develop in our Christian communities. The Lord is “full of compassion and mercy,” and we should be like Him. Compassion means to have sympathy and concern for the suffering of other people. As the Bible tells us, we are to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. However, in our day, compassion can also be a justification to overlook and even encourage sin.
Because of compassion, I might drive a young woman to an abortion clinic. I know that having a baby at sixteen will dramatically alter her future. I may think, “Abortion may be wrong, but perhaps it’s a necessary evil for my young friend to have a bright future.”
Because of compassion, I may celebrate a gay wedding. I want my friend to find love and can see the beauty of two women who want to commit their lives to one another. I may think, “Surely God, as the author of compassion, would be celebrating too, wouldn’t He?”
Because of compassion, I might encourage my friend to leave her husband. I may think, “He’s boring and they have little in common. The guy she met at work seems like a much better fit for her than her husband seems to be.”
Have you been there? Have you felt the tension of loving someone in pain and wanting them to find happiness, regardless of the cost to get there? Out of compassion, I can be moved to justify any sin in my own life or another’s—a convenient lie.
Breaking a promise that costs too much to keep.
An angry outlash at someone who absolutely deserves it.
Spreading gossip about a person who has hurt someone I love.
By doing so, we are quickly fitting the mold of those Paul described in Romans 1: “Although we know God’s righteous decree that sin leads to death, we not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” Compassion itself can become our god, causing us to put aside our reverence for the God of all compassion.
As we wrestle with agonizing struggles, temptations, and genuine pain, it’s wise to return to the evergreen question, “What would Jesus do?” How did He embody compassion without compromise?
There are many stories in the gospels that describe Jesus’ compassion for both groups of people and for individuals. His compassion always moved Him to action. Out of compassion, He wept, He healed, and He fed hungry crowds. He did whatever He could to alleviate suffering. But in at least one instance, we find Jesus in a state of compassion expressing helplessness to act. It was shortly before His crucifixion as He looked over the city of Jerusalem. He saw a brokenness that He couldn’t heal. As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
Likewise, Jesus had deep sorrow and compassion for a rich young ruler who refused to abandon his love for money. While Jesus, the God of all compassion, did all that He could to alleviate suffering, He never changed the standard of holiness in order to make people feel better or save them from suffering.
Like Jesus, our compassion should lead us to action. We can alleviate suffering by comforting and providing for material needs. In fact, compassion should compel us to go to great expense to serve others who are in pain. However, we must never confuse compassion with turning away from God’s standard of right and wrong.
In compassion, what if the father of the prodigal son kept sending him money to live a life of pleasure and recklessness? Sometimes, our greatest expressions of care are in lovingly refusing to go along with something that will ultimately result in spiritual harm.
Compassionate. It’s not a description that is typically used to describe Christians. In fact, the opposite is often true. Instead of compassion, Christians are often characterized as hypocritical, judgmental, and uncaring. Perhaps the stereotype is unfair, but it has a grain of truth, nonetheless.
It’s one thing to tell a young woman not to get an abortion. It’s quite another to offer her friendship and financial support through the journey of pregnancy, delivery, and raising a child. Pursuing God’s holiness is costly. When we call one another to do so, are we willing to walk the hard journey with them?
Jesus could not save the city of Jerusalem over which He wept. But ironically, He offered His life to do so. “You did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” Immanuel. God with us. I will never leave you or forsake you. God’s greatest compassion is not that He saves us from pain, but that He ministers to us through it.
Our greatest mission is the same. It’s far easier to condone a convenient sin than to walk with someone through the long journey of repentance and self-denial.
There is no greater comfort than that which can be offered by someone who has walked through your situation. The compassion of knowing your pain is far deeper than the compassion of imagining that pain. This is why Hebrews reminds us, “ We do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Jesus, the Son of God, the perfect man endured human life so that He could relate to us! Yet, why when we minister to others do we so often try to elevate ourselves with self-righteousness? It’s so tempting to speak with an air of moral superiority, forgetting that genuine compassion means companionship.
I’m not a moral authority, but a fellow seeker of God’s truth and love. If you are speeding along the highway, my permission doesn’t change the speed limit nor will it keep you from the potential consequences of a deadly crash. Whatever my opinion, I am subject to the same laws of nature that you are.
The same is true as we grapple with issues of sexual morality. Please do not place your trust in my opinion on abortion, gay marriage, gender fluidity, adultery, or divorce. I am a sinner just like you! While I may share what God is teaching me on such important topics, my one desire is to point you to a Truth that transcends my understanding.
Ultimately, I pray that my approval or condemnation means very little to someone searching for answers. In compassion, may my best advice reflect what I myself need everyday. Run to Jesus. Trust His Word. His healing is eternal. His commands will actually revive your soul. He came to bring life, not judgment.
May we be a people of compassion … but not the superficial compassion of tolerance and acceptance. May we strive for a compassion that costs us our time, our energy, our resources, and our pride.
You may also find the following resources helpful:
Java with Juli #285: Loving without Compromise (member exclusive)
Java with Juli #182: Your Generation & Your View of Sexuality
Relational Revelation (blog)
Photo by Ashton Bingham on Unsplash