Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Compassion is more than I thought it was.

Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

I need to explain how I am doing this. You are reading the research that I do in "real time." I'm typing it up as I am finding it and sharing my thoughts as they unfold. The beginning of this won't necessarily match the end, because my understanding will hopefully have changed. That's how we do life, right? We grow and learn and our understandings and knowledge changes. You'll see that here. Sometimes what I think might be on the money. Sometimes I may be far off the mark. Either way, I'm looking forward to learning more and gaining a better grasp on this verse as a whole.

I want to share my non-researched definition of "Compassion." To me it's understanding something from another person's perspective, knowing there is another side to the story, knowing your story isn't the only one that matters. I loved the responses I got on Facebook. I think we all have the same general idea of what compassion means, though it made me giggle when one friend said he shows it mostly with children. Teen children. Yes, the young definitely need compassion from the old. I do not think it is agreement, or acceptance, or permission. The way some defined compassion it sounded just like love. Synonymous with empathy? love? understanding? Maybe.

Some of the different versions use slightly different phrases for this word:

bowels of mercie
compassionate hearts
oiktirmos: compassion, mercy, pity

My favorite dictionary defines it as "feeling for another's sorrow or hardship that leads to help; sympathy; pity" and Webster's says "sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it." I find it interesting that both define it as the want to help another one as well as feeling bad for them. I really liked this I found on the Webster website for understanding better what it means "compassion implies pity coupled with an urgent desire to aid or to spare."

Other places in the Bible this Greek word is translated as mercy as well, but it's only used 5 times in the New Testament.
  • Col 3:12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
  • Philippians 2:1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,
  • 2 Corinthians 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,
  • Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
  • Hebrews 10:28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
The Reformation Study Bible says this about compassion: "An emotional, caring relationship with those whose lives are hurt and broken." And gives these three verses as references: Matt. 9:36 (in context Jesus was calling for workers for the harvest here because He had compassion on the people); 14:14 (Jesus had compassion and did something - He healed their sick); Rom. 12:1  (We are called to live holy because God has mercy/compassion on us)

Matthew Henry said, "Those who owe so much to mercy ought to be merciful to all who are proper objects of mercy."

I found it telling that the Asbury Bible Commentary referenced Nehemiah's return to Jerusalem.

What a perfect example of compassion. Nehemiah heard what was happening in Jerusalem and it broke him. He allowed those feelings of wanting to help others to lead him to prayer which led him to action. Nehemiah didn't simply say he wished change would happen. When he had the opportunity he did something about it. While Nehemiah is one of my favorite stories for a variety of reasons so I may be partial to him, I think this is an excellent example for true understanding of what the word means. Not just feeling bad for people, but the desire to make things better.

Maybe I had empathy for the cable guys yesterday. I couldn't do a thing to make it better, though I tried to keep my attitude positive for them and myself. Is that enough to make sympathy turn to compassion? The point, I believe, is that we should do things within our power to make things better for others when we can. There are all sorts of little and big ways to do that.

I would like to think a positive attitude can be showing compassion. As well as a kind word, or a small deed. It's not only healing the sick as Jesus did, or building a wall like Nehemiah did. I think it's whatever we can do.

Compassion: the ability to pity, feel for, or empathize with another person and have the desire to do something to help them. Ex. Nehemiah returning to Jerusalem, Jesus healing the people.

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