Compassion is a noun.
Compassion. What is it? Who has it, and who doesn’t?
Compassion is a noun. That means it’s not action – but the result of this noun will develop into a verb of action. It is “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.”
Another definition is “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”
There’s a way, I’ve discovered, that helps me develop compassion. This emotion can come from my heart when I turn my focus to the other person and not on myself or my opinion about the person or situation.
A story with verb action
Jesus told a story to illustrate His point about loving one’s neighbor, and He used this word. Reading this story, I was surprised to see this word I didn’t remember being there. The story Jesus told is a powerful story that plays out today the world over. The word Jesus used in the story helps us understand how the Samaritan could be so helpful. That word is compassion.
The Samaritan people1 were shunned by Jews because they were mix-blooded Jews. After the northern kingdom of Israel was sent into exile, the conquering Assyrians brought in foreigners to replace the deported Israelites. This led to the intermarriage of Jews and Gentiles. Jew of pure lineage despised the progeny of these mixed marriages.
When an unpopular man, a Samaritan, comes across the fallen man lying alone by the side of the road, he could make a few judgment calls, such as:
- Serves him right. He shouldn’t have been traveling alone.
- What was he thinking?! Pretending to be somebody when he’s not – he deserved to be robbed.
- He had it coming to him – fat chance me helping him!
- Those people would never stop and help me – so I’ve got an excuse not to help.
- Finally – hope he knows how it feels to have people ignore a need. See if I’ll help someone like him.
Instead, this man, the unnamed Samaritan who Jesus called “good”, had compassion. This compassion (noun) had the Samaritan dipping into his own resources (verb) and using his own equipment and supplies (verb) to sustain life for the robbed man.
True compassion and mercy costs us. If there is no sacrifice or giving, then we’re void of mercy and compassion. True compassion is fleshed out in the things we do. Most times, others aren’t aware of how we’ve been spent. When we “show” our compassion so others will notice, then it really is nothing but a show – and it’s not authentic.
We can test the authenticity of our compassion by how we count the cost to ourselves. If we are truly compassionate, there are some things we won’t do.
We won’t count
- the reward for helping
- the risk
- the sacrifice it costs us
- the (financial or otherwise) cost
- or shift the blame
We do these things, because mercy and compassion costs.
At the end of the story Jesus told, He asked the question: which man proved to be a neighbor to the one who fell among thieves?
They answered: the one who showed mercy to him.
On this answer, Jesus replied: “Then go and do the same.”
Jesus was saying: have compassion and let that compassion show by the way you act, the way you live, and the things you are willing to do.
1 Jeremiah Study Bible, copyright 2013 by David Jeremiah, Inc. Published by Worthy Publishing of Worthy Media, Inc., p. 1408.
Photo attribution goes to LUMP project under www.freebibleimages.org.