The Compassionate Father

A widower struggles to raise two young children in a small southern town during the 1930s. The town’s racist attitudes come to light as this man, who is a lawyer, faces the daunting challenge of defending a black man who is accused of raping a white woman. Does this scenario sound familiar? It may if you’re acquainted with the acclaimed film, To Kill a Mockingbird. Or perhaps you’ve read the Harper Lee novel on which it is based.

My appreciation for this film grew after I became a father. Faced with similar adversity, would I be the kind of father, frien,d and citizen that the hero, Atticus Finch, is? In this scene from the film, Atticus explains to his daughter Scout the difficulties associated with defending a black man in a hostile environment:

Atticus: There are some things that you’re no old enough to understand just yet. There’s been some high talk around town to the effect that I shouldn’t do much about defending this man.

Scout: If you shouldn’t be defending him, then why are you doing it?

Atticus: For a number of reasons. The main one is that if I didn’t, I couldn’t hold my head up in town. I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do somethin’ again. (He puts his arm around her.) You’re gonna hear some ugly talk about this in school. But I want you to promise me one thing… that you won’t get into fights over it, no matter what they say to you.
Words like honor and integrity could be used to describe Atticus Finch. Compassion is another.

Compassion is defined as a “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/compassion)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort… (2 Corinthians 1:3)

The Apostle Paul tells us that our God is the Father of compassion. No mere human could match the depth of sympathy he holds for a world of sinners in distress. The Father’s desire to alleviate our distress is fulfilled in the salvation His Son has won for all people. It is impossible to fathom God’s compassion.

[God] comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. (2 Corinthians 1:4,5)

The limitless comfort of the cross is the very thing that enables you to comfort others. United with Christ in faith, you have taken up His cross. The sufferings of Christ that flow into your life are employed by God for the strengthening of faith (Romans 5:3-5). As the sufferings flow, the comfort of Christ also flows, more than that, it overflows. Like an unstoppable force of nature, the God of all creation delivers a never-ending flood of comfort. It just keeps coming!

You, dear parent, are not a celluloid hero. You are frail flesh and blood waging a battle against the dark forces in this sin-filled world. But you don’t fight alone. Filled with the Spirit and transformed by the gospel, you are sympathetic to the distress of others. Your Christ-fed compassion begins at home and extends outside the home to include those whom our society marginalizes.

You reflect Christ’s compassion to the unborn, the aged and the disabled. In fact there is no one you withhold it from because everyone you serve is precious to your Savior. And your children learn from the compassion that you model.

Like the fictitious Atticus Finch, your compassion for others will be met with scorn. Your pro-life views and your faith-filled actions will be ridiculed. This sin-twisted world describes the killing of the unborn and the unwanted as compassionate. True compassion is labeled as hateful and bigoted. But through it all you remain faithful to the One who is always faithful. Christ’s love guides you.

One of the measures that Atticus Finch applied to his actions was how they would affect his children. That is a good measure for every Christian parent. Your children learn from what you do. As you reflect Christ’s compassion to them and to others, you strengthen your pro-life home.

In the end, Atticus Finch failed to save his client from a tragic end. Life is like that. It gets messy, and sometimes things end badly. You may even wonder if God cares. Rest assured that God truly is the Father of compassion. You have Christ’s forgiveness for your sinful failings and are moved to service by His overflowing comfort. May the Cross of Christ remain central in your home as you reflect his compassion.


Mr. Tim Snyder serves as the Media Services Coordinator for Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Tim and his family are members at Christ the Lord congregation in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

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