When it comes to compassion and forgiveness, Christians can run hot and cold. On one end of the spectrum we are hesitant to criticize or look for earnest change for fear of being regarded as judgmental while on the other end we require our pound of flesh before we will say with certainty that someone is sincerely redeemed. In many cases the ease with which Jesus extended forgiveness caused some to pause. In Mark chapter 2 the paraplegic is lowered from the roof seemingly to be physically healed but when Christ instead offered to forgive his sins it raised question in the hearts of some that were there. In John chapter 8, in what was an open and shut case for stoning, Jesus quickly argued for a stay of execution for a woman caught in the act of adultery. In Luke chapter 15 a wayward child, against his father’s wishes, demanded his inheritance before it was due and squandered every nickel before coming to his senses and going back to his father’s house.
In each of these instances forgiveness is quickly extended to the offender and in the case of the paraplegic it is extended without his asking. His friends sought to have him healed from his inability to walk but Jesus first asks if he wanted to have his sins forgiven. This paints for us the disparity that exists between what we ask of God and His knowing what we need. This occurrence also shows the judgmental attitude of the audience. They were all too accepting that Christ could grant the crippled man the ability to walk but in their hearts they figured that Jesus was above His pay grade in granting forgiveness of the man’s sins when in actuality both of these acts were miracles and if Jesus could perform one why not the other?
The crowd sought to immediately stone the woman who had “seemingly” committed adultery. This speaks to the attitude that Jesus stated was in the heart of the people in Matthew 19. He told them that Moses allowed them to divorce because they did not have forgiving hearts and that lack of compassion was on parade. Had she been guilty of this offense they were right to do so by the letter of the Law. Jesus previews the grace of the New Covenant as He quickly forgives her of an offense that carried the death penalty.
The prodigal son compromised relationships and resources in his selfish desire to collect what he felt were rightfully his. His brother was upset at the celebration that ensued to welcome him home. I wonder how the faithful brother would have felt had his wayward sibling died out in the world. Did he think for a moment that the outcome could have been so much worse than it was? Our lack of compassion, our desire for retribution sometimes gets in the way of God’s desire for us to reflect the image of His Son. The father was not concerned with what the son had wasted. He was thankful for what had been saved.