TheGift of Compassion


The Gift of Compassion

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries.  Without them humanity cannot survive.”

 —Dalai Lama (b. 1935), a monk of the Gelug School.

 Compassion is a form of love that is aroused when we are faced with those who are suffering or vulnerable.  The Hebrew and Greek words – “rachuwm” and “splanchnisoma” are at times translated as “compassion.”   Other broader meanings are “to show pity” and “to show mercy.”  Synonyms in the English language are “to be loved by,” “to show concern for,” “to be tender-hearted,” and “to act kindly.”  All these terms help with our expressions concerning how we should pray.  Rumi (1207–1273), a Persian Muslim theologian said, “Great can be a garden of compassion.  If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.”  Yet, some of us are brought to our knees when we suffer.  Strange as it may seem such pain might provide relief, insight, and dependence on God.

 In the New Testament believers learn about a compassionate God.  This is shown through the ministry of Jesus Christ with his flock (Mt. 9:36; Mk. 6:34).  Jesus encountered crowds, of sick, and hungry people.  Luke speaks about how a father was moved with compassion when he encountered his wayward son (Lk. 15:20).  God will accept backsliders when they repent and return to the fold.  But how should people pray?  Albert Schweitzer (18751965), a French-German theologian wrote, “The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.”  Believers should do such deeds by feeding the poor, working in soup kitchens, and clothing the naked.  These ministries call for dedication while showing love to the afflicted.  People should make compassion an integral part of their lifestyle (Zech. 7:9).  As Daniel Goleman (b. 1946), a psychologist said, “True compassion means not only feeling another’s pain but also being moved to help relieve it.”

 Reach Out in Prayer

 But what must believers do?  Radhanath Swami (b. 1950), a community builder wrote, “Religion is meant to teach us true spiritual human character.  It is meant for self-transformation.  It is meant to transform anxiety into peace, arrogance into humility, envy into compassion, to awaken the pure soul in man and his love for the Source, which is God.”  Desmond Tutu (1931–2021), a South African Anglican bishop further said, “God’s dream is that you and I and all of us will realize that we are family, that we are made for togetherness, for goodness, and for compassion.”  When people pray for guidance in their quest is to be free they should embrace compassion. 

God is full of compassion and gracious (Ps. 78:38; 86:15; 111:4).  Jesus taught that people should extend this gift to the whole human race (Mt. 5:43-48; Lk 10:30-37).  As St. Stephen (d. 36 A.D.), the first martyr said, “You desire that which exceeds my humble powers, but I trust in the compassion and mercy of the All-powerful God.”  People are therefore reminded by St. Francis of Assisi (1181/1182–1226), an Italian Roman Catholic preacher who wrote, “If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”  Being compassionate should never be viewed as a weakness, but as a special gift from God. 




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