“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.” (Psalm 103:13)
This month’s prayer theme has been suggested by one of our family at Newbury, prompted by a recent exhortation by Bro. John Vickers which some of you will remember. It seems really appropriate just now, as we are moved every day by reports of a world that is suﬀering – from disease, from poverty, racial injustice, fear and frustration … and the daily problems we experience too in our church family.
When our Lord Jesus saw people suﬀering, we’re told
“he was moved with compassion”
for them (e.g. Matthew 9:36). This is said of Jesus several times in the gospels, and the word used was a remarkable one (‘splagchnizomai’ – and no, I don’t know how you pronounce it either!).
Apparently, it isn’t a word that is found in classical Greek, and it may have been specially made up by the gospel writers to describe how Jesus reacted. It literally means that feeling at the pit of your stomach when you are physically aﬀected by pity and sorrow. It is expressive of the deepest emotion.
There are at least nine occasions in the gospels when we read of Jesus feeling compassion — towards individuals, like the leper, or the widow in Nain whose only son had just died, leaving her without support; or towards whole crowds, who were so desperate to hear his teaching that they followed him until they were exhausted and famished. In response, he healed, he raised the dead, he provided food. In the parables he told, a despised Samaritan has compassion on the traveller who has been attacked by thieves and takes care of him, and (most movingly of all) the Father who so loves the ungrateful son who has deserted him that he is constantly watching for him, races to meet him on his return home, and throws a feast.
Compassion is more than sympathy, more even than empathy, isn’t it?
It’s about action. It’s about seeing a need and doing something about it, as Jesus did. As the Father does.
“If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them,
“Go in peace, be warmed and ﬁlled,”
without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? (James 2:15-16)
“When he saw, he was moved with compassion …”
Do we see the need? Or do we sometimes choose not to see, so that we’re not put in a position where we have to do something? It all depends where we’re looking, doesn’t it? Do we just zero in on our own lives, our own immediate concerns? Or do we look up and out, taking time to see the needs of those outside our own circle, particularly those on the margins?
If we do see the hurt, the suﬀering, the loneliness – whatever the need is – do we feel moved by compassion to take action?
That is clearly what we are called to do, to show the uttermost compassion in our actions towards our brothers and sisters, and to our neighbours, our fellow travellers on the Jericho road. Jesus gave his all, in love for all of us. Are we showing his kind of compassion, as we try to follow his example?
Let’s pray this month that we too will see the needs of others, and that we will be moved by compassion to take action to help in whatever way we can.
“Put on, then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another and … forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:12-13)