Word of the Week: Compassion

CompassionSeveral years ago, I heard a story that came out of the Special Olympics in Seattle. Nine contestants, all physically or mentally handicapped, assembled at the starting line to run the 100 yard dash.

The gun sounded.  And off they went!  Well, not exactly in a dash!  But with a zest and enthusiasm to run the race.  However, one little boy stumbled and fell.  As he tumbled to the track, he began to cry.  The other eight heard him. Stopped.  And slowly returned. 

A little girl, with down’s syndrome, bent down and kissed him and said,” this will make it better.” Then all nine linked arms, and walked together to the finish line. Everyone in the stadium stood, and cheered; the cheering went on for several minutes.

While I’m not sure all the details of this story are 100% accurate, it vividly illustrates our word of the week–“Compassion.”

“Compassion” is a middle English word that has Latin roots.  It means to bear with.  Suffer with. Sympathize with.  By definition compassion means  “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.”

Christians are called to be people of compassion.  The Bible exhorts, “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tender-hearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Pet 3:8-9)

The Greek word means “to suffer with another.”  Vincent says it is not limited to sorrow, but if the interchange of feelings for fellow human being, whether or joy or sorrow.  It is the application behind Paul’s command, “Rejoice with those that rejoice; and weep with those that weep.

Compassion involves sympathy.  Empathy.  Understanding.  It really does feel the pain of another.  To better understand compassion and learn how to  be compassionate, take a look at Christ.

Matthew records when Jesus “saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” This  prompted Him to exhort the disciples,  “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
(Matt 9:36-37

Luke tells about a time Jesus came into the city of Nain and witnessed a funeral procession.  A widow woman’s only son had died.  A large crowd of people followed.   “When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”  Then Jesus opened the coffin.  And raised the boy to life again.  (LK. 7:12-14)

The classic example of compassion is Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan.   A man was journeying the dangerous road from Jerusalem to Jericho.  Thieves attacked him.  Beat him up.  Stole his possession.  And left him dying.

After two religious leaders passed by, a Priest and Levite, Jesus says, “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.”  (Lk. 10:33) But we learn here that compassion is more than just a feeling.  It is moves us to action.

The Samaritan stopped.  Cleaned his wounds with oil and wine. Bandaged up  the bleeding man.  Lifted him up on his own animal.  Took him to an Inn. Paid for his lodging.  And then asked the Inn keeper to look after him.  And volunteered to reimburse him for his expense.

Jesus teaches us a lot about real compassion for others.  Compassion gives of its time.  Expends energy. Gets involved.  Rolls up its sleeves.  Gets its hands dirty.  That’s why Peter Ustinov quipped, “Charity is more common than compassion. Charity is tax-deductible. Compassion is time-consuming.”

In a world surrounded by hurt.  Sickness.  And suffering.  Christ’s disciples are to be people of compassion.  May God open my eyes to the pain of other people and help me have a heart of compassion.

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman

3 Comments

Filed under compassion, Word of the Week

3 responses to “Word of the Week: Compassion

  1. What a lovely story about the special Olympics, thank you for sharing that. Really heart-touching. I was interested to read the definition of compassion; my interpretation is that we have sympathy and empathy when we are being compassionate, but not necessarily feeling the same emotions as the person we’re feeling compassion for. We are moved to help if we can, but remain constant with our own feelings. In my experience if we feel the same emotion as the person in suffering we are less able to help. For me, feeling compassion for someone goes hand in hand with understanding. An understanding of why someone has behaved in a certain way, while we might not agree with the behaviour, we can still have compassion for the person. I enjoyed reading your post today. Blessings, Andrea

  2. This is do great though sounding like fiction but its uplifts our faith big time.
    Hod bless you abundantly.

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