Does Jesus have compassion for weirdos? 

The trend today is to be compassionate and tolerant to everyone, no matter how bizarre a person identifies as, or how criminal a person’s behaviour is, or how rude, demanding and violent people become if we don’t accommodate, celebrate, affirm and even applaud their versions of truth, or their sexual fantasies, or their fragile feelings.   

But wasn’t Jesus compassionate? Yes: “When he saw the crowds, he was moved with compassion for them,” Matthew 9:36, “because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep having no shepherd.” The Greek word for compassion here is esplanchnisthē – which, according to Charles Spurgeon was a made up word, because they couldn’t find a word “in the whole Greek language that suited their purpose, and therefore they had to make one.”

Because what they saw in Jesus was extraordinary. To quote Spurgeon again, “those who watched him closely perceived that his internal agitation was very great, his emotions were very deep, and then his face betrayed it, his eyes gushed like founts with tears, and you saw that his big heart was ready to burst with pity for the sorrow upon which his eyes were gazing. He was moved with compassion. His whole nature was agitated with commiseration for the sufferers before him.”

Or as Matthew put it, Jesus saw people as “sheep without a shepherd” – a vivid picture – because domesticated sheep, uncared for, are pathetic creatures. Left alone they die easily from simple things like fright, bloating, being too wet, or even just being upside down. They suffer easily when uncared for as well, because their wool keeps on growing until it becomes heavy, dirty and full of parasites, and their hoofs grow to the point they cannot walk. 

Sheep are stupid too; they get their heads stuck in things (in one case, a kettle), and they’re easily defeated too, like the sheep perched on top of a tree stump with all four feet off the ground, crying in distress rather than trying to find a way off. And why was it on the stump in the first place? I’ve read many stories about sheep, and they all say the same thing, that sheep are not easy to look after. But they stir deep feelings in some people, who are willing to care for them in all weathers, night and day, and it shatters them to lose a lamb to sickness or predators, or a ewe that dies giving birth.

So there’s our picture of how Jesus views us. He loves us, and it really hits him in the gut (the meaning of the root word for compassion in Matthew 9:36) when we’re struggling because of the mess this world has made of us. His heartfelt desire is to patch us up, heal our wounds, and flourish in his care. 

But would he extend that same heartfelt desire to weirdos and degenerates? To say “No, he wouldn’t” would, according to Paul in Romans 2:4, be “showing contempt for the riches of God’s kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that his kindness leads you toward repentance.” 

So, of course Jesus has compassion for them, but notice what the end game of his compassion is. It’s not affirming, accommodating or celebrating their weirdness and stupidity; it’s doing whatever gets them to repent. It’s still compassion, because it hits Jesus in the gut seeing how lost and damaged they are, but it’s compassion that also exposes their nonsense to wake them up and admit how wrong they’ve been, so they stop being weird and stupid. 

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