The Demands And Means of Compassion

By Lewis Willis

Several Greek words are translated“compassion.”Note the words and their definitions: Oikteiro — “to have pity, a feeling of distress through the ills of others”; splanchnizomai — “to be moved with compassion;” sumpatheo — “to suffer with another . . . to be affected similarly (sym- pathy) . . . be touched with;” and eleeo — “to have mercy . . . to show kindness, by beneficence, or assistance” (Vine 218).

Compassion signifies a feeling within the heart for others because of their suffering and trouble. It promotes or produces action. The action is an expression of kindness and/or assistance to the suffering. Note that compassion, if there is no action, is empty and useless.

T h e  p e r fe c t  a n d  a b s o l u t e expression of compassion is naturally found in God. Paul wrote, “For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” (Rom. 9:15). Also, many passages affirm the compassion of Christ: “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd”(Matt. 9:36). (See also Matt. 14:14; 15:32; 20:34.) When the prodigal son returned it was said of his father, “And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). Of course, God is represented by the Father in that parable.

It would be expected, I suppose, that the same spirit of compassion would be required of God’s children. Consider: “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another” (Rom. 12:10); “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32); and “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering” (Col. 3:12). Obviously, we are not what we are supposed to be unless we are kind, tenderhearted, and merciful to those who are in need.

To say that compassion is needed to d ay i s a n understatement. This is true of both Christians and non- Christians. It would be hard to think of a time when more people have been in more distress than they are today. I can recall all of my life hearing older people talk about the Depression. What they had in mind was the trouble and hardship of the time.

The nature of human suffering today may be dif- ferent than those days but it is just as real. People are sick; they recognize their weakness in body and spirit in dealing with their hardships; they are so concerned about what might happen that they cannot even sleep; the innocent party in a divorce is left in anger, loneliness and heartache; and death leaves many with absolute hopelessness, loss and despair. These need compassion! Their circumstances demand our action. Furthermore, the teaching of God’s Word places us under obligation to act regarding their needs.

There are too few people who seem to care when these times of trouble come. Unless we have experienced some of these situations ourselves, we may find that we do not understand the feelings of the distressed, or do not understand what to do and how to do it in our efforts to offer our support.

Many, not knowing what to say, say nothing. Others, seem to say but do nothing. People sometimes say, “Call me if I can help.” Perhaps they mean every word of it. But those in distress, not wishing to be a burden, do not feel comfortable in active — in an effort to help. By setting a definite time, we prove our offer to help is genuine.

Also, a telephone call received unexpectedly is espe- cially appreciated. Select that time when you think the person might need to hear from a friend, as in the evening or on holidays when no one is around. A card says I care. It affords an opportunity to say to the troubled there is someone who cares. Our visits give them an opportunity to express their frustrations, fears, sadness, and loneli- ness. These visits break the monotony of dreary days. And, of course, these need the power of prayer to help them through their time of despair. And they need to know that you are praying for them.

If we do what we know we are obligated to do — which is really what we want to do — it will require some of our time. Aren’t our friends and brethren worth some of our time? It will require using some energy, even at the end of our own tiresome duties, but they are worth that too. We will have to use our several abilities to find that special way to help, or that special word that will comfort, but that’s a small price to pay for the benefit it brings to others. We will have to keep our eyes open to see those who are in need, and to see the opportunities we have to serve others. That’s what being a Christian requires of us. But we do it, not out of obligation, but because we care!

Look about you, brother or sister. Is there a family member, a fellow Christian, a friend or a neighbor in need of help? Don’t wait for someone else to act. Filled with compassion, get up and do something to help them! Yes, they will appreciate it. But, you will also profit from doing as you should.