The holy affection Edwards speaks of that I’ve been working on lately is compassion. There are people in my life that I find very hard to have compassion towards, and thus am praying that God renders in me a compassion for them. There are two main convictions of mine that produce my lack of compassion towards these people: my mentality towards them and their offenses.
Many times my feelings towards someone are bolstered by my mentality towards them. I am judgmental towards them and thus my feelings about them exist accordingly. These judgments are, more often than not, based on their appearance – the clothes they wear, their hair color, even the people they surround themselves with. I place the person under a stereotype and will stubbornly keep them there until they have gone out of their way to prove my judgments about them wrong. And most of the time they person never has a change to prove them wrong because we may have never exchanged one word in our lives! This, clearly, is very unloving, and, let alone, unfair. When I catch myself giving someone the “once-over,” I try and stop myself and ask God to replace my critical heart with a compassionate one.
Sometimes I convince myself that a person’s offenses – whether actual sins or not – give me reason to not have compassion towards them. They’ve either done something wrong or simply something I didn’t like and I feel the need to withhold compassion from them. They may be sad or frustrated and I think, “Well they deserve it, they’ve done such-and-such!” However, this is very unforgiving and even hypocritical. How many times can God say that I’ve wronged him and yet He still loves me? Too many to count! We are instructed to “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ forgave us (Ephesians 4:32). When I catch myself withholding compassion from someone, I ask God to remind me of how much he loves me despite my disappointments and short fallings.