Compassion literally means “suffer with” (from its Latin origin). It implies empathy, the ability to share in the feelings of someone else as if they were one’s own. This is the art of standing in someone else’s shoes, imaginatively experiencing their point of view.
It has been suggested that a brilliant way to achieve reconciliation in resolving conflict is to have each opposing party argue for the other’s point of view as passionately as if it were his/her own. What a wonderful way that might be of encouraging compassion!
Compassion can also be called sympathy, and technically means the same – yet sympathy has overtones of mere feeling – crying on each other’s shoulders – whereas compassion implies either taking action to help or exercising restraint in a situation where one has power over another.
In this section of the book, we also have a study on “mercy”. Notice the word is used interchangeably with “compassion” in the parable of the Good Samaritan. How would you differentiate compassion from mercy – or are they really the same?
Who have you met or read about, whose life exemplifies Christian compassion?
What is the place for compassion in your life at the moment? Where does your heart cry out for it? Where are you needing to exercise it?
O God of righteousness, justice, and power, we thank you humbly for the compassion you have shown to us. You have stayed your hand when we chose greed and violence; you waited for us to learn better when we chose destruction and indifference. When we were lost in sin, you came to us yourself in Jesus, to teach us, heal us, and show us the way to heaven. Compassionate God, may we be transformed by the renewing of our minds into the likeness of your compassion, until we come to reflect the beauty of Jesus in the time and place in which we live. For we ask it in his holy name; Amen.