So we’ve looked at the lists of virtues in Galatians and 2 Peter. There are several other lists we could look at, but most of them pretty much repeat what we’ve been over already. I’ve got just three more to examine, then we’re going to spend a couple of days on the Christmas story (duh), then I’ve got a four-day study on another topic to revealed soon. Hope you’ll stick with it.
While we’re on the subject of upcoming plans, here are mine for the coming year. God willing, we’re going to spend about half the year in the prophets. If you’re expecting a complete outline on the “End Times” and a study on who the Anti-Christ is and when the Rapture is going to be, then you’re going to be disappointed. Believe or not, the prophets are extremely practical set of books. Then we’re going to wrap up the TAWG Blog with a very abbreviated overview of the Epistles.
Speaking of which, we’re looking at a two-day study of this passage. He cites several virtues, but compassion and forgiveness are two that we haven’t looked at yet. Today’s compassion, and tomorrow’s forgiveness.
So what is compassion? Well, the Greek is a very ugly-sounding word: splagchnon. Don’t try to pronounce it, you’ll only hurt yourself like I did. It’s the word for the bowels or intestines, and it’s related to the same word we get “spleen” from. The reason for this is that the ancients considered the bowels the center of the stronger emotions like love and anger. So they talked about their intestines being moved when they saw someone in need and felt their pain. Don’t laugh—we refer to the “heart,” as the seat of the emotions, as if that muscle in your chest has to do with anything. It’s the same thing when we say that our “heart” was “moved.”
That’s why different translations render the same word different ways, like the NASB has it as “tender-hearted” in Eph. 4:32. But there’s a good reason to translate it as “compassionate,” and it has to do with the English word.
People use the word “compassionate” rather sloppily, because they don’t know what the word actually means. It comes from two words com (“with”) and pathos. What do we call the sufferings of Christ from his arrest to his death? The Passion. That’s because “passion” comes from pathos which means suffering. So literally when we show true compassion we are suffering with someone.
This means something to me. God did not sit up in Heaven and look down and say “I’m going to do something about those people down there.” He didn’t just send deliverance like he did in the O.T., which certainly would be more than we deserve. He sent his own Son to suffer with us.
He put up with all the little trials we put up: hunger, thirst, tiredness, frustration, etc. He also endured emotional suffering, such his rejection by his own family and hometown (who tried to kill him). One of his closest followers betrayed him, his foremost disciple denied knowing his name, and all his followers fled when he was arrested. He went through several mock trials, and was finally rejected by his nation in place of a violent criminal.
But then came the worst “suffering with” us. Actually instead we ought to call it “suffering for” us. He took the sins of the world--and with it the wrath of the Father--upon his back. You ever felt lonely, like no one cares about you? Have you ever felt like God has abandoned you? Our Savior went through what you’ve endured times infinity on the Cross.
That’s what true compassion is. Yes, it’s a movement of the heart (or “intestines”), but it translates into action. Action that actually costs you something.
Father, in this time of year when we’re celebrating the First and Most Important Christmas Gift, what do you want me to give? How can I follow your example of compassion?