RECONSIDERING THE DEFINITION
OF THE WORD `COMPASSION' 1
THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE
Most people have little knowledge of any language other than their own. That's why it is difficult to comprehend the abilities of a person such as the ancient Parthian ruler Mithridates. He could speak the languages of all the 25 nations he ruled. But even more astounding was the 18th- century Italian linguist Mezzofanti. He was fluent in 114 languages and dialects.
We certainly admire these men for their great knowledge. But we as Christians know one language that stands above all others--the language of love. It is essential in communicating the gospel. Even if we speak flawlessly in our own tongue and learn to converse in other languages as well, our words will sound empty and unpleasant, like a clanging cymbal, if they don't flow from a heart of love. It is our responsibility to share our knowledge of the Savior, but if we fail to demonstrate care and compassion, we are wasting our breath.
Jehovah God is a compassionate God and we, being His people, are to demonstrate that compassion to the world.
We must now review all that we have covered in the past fourteen messages on compassion. We covered every Scripture where the words "compassion, compassions or compassionate," occurred in the Old Testament. We defined all the Hebrew words that were translated as such, plus some related words. We entertained these words from the most frequently used word to the least frequently used word. These words are:
racham (raw-kham') 7355,
racham (rakh'-am) 7356,
rachuwm (rakh-oom') 7349,
chamal (khaw-mal') 2550,
chemlah (khem-law') 2551,
chus (khoos) 2347,
nacham (naw-kham') 5162,
nichum (nee-khoom') 5150,
nocham (no'-kham) 5164,
chanan (khaw-nan') 2603,
rachamani (rakh-maw-nee') 7362,
rechem (rekh-ame') 7359.
Although we logged numerous observations, really observations, interpretations and applications, we have reduced our learning to seven principles:
Principle #1: Jehovah God, as to His nature, is love. He consistently demonstrates His love by being compassionate.
Principle #2: Jehovah God, as to His nature, is love. He consistently demonstrates His love by being compassionate. But God does have self-imposed limits and boundaries and hence, His compassion can run out. These limits and boundaries have to do with high-handed and unrepented of sin. Yet, this running out of His compassion seems to be temporal, with respect to Israel, and not eternal. He sets conditions for restoration to His temporal compassion, but seems to state that in the final analysis His immanent lovingkindness and transitive compassion will be eternally bestowed upon Israel.
Principle #3: Jehovah God, as to His nature is love. He demonstrates His love by consistently being compassionate. In certain instances His compassion is depicted as a Motherly feeling towards His children.
Principle #4: Jehovah God as to His nature is love. He consistently demonstrates His love by being compassionate. In certain instances, His compassion is depicted as pity. He has sympathetic, heartfelt sorrow for our suffering. He pities us!
Principle #5: Jehovah God, as to His nature, is love. He consistently demonstrates His love by being compassionate. In certain instances, His compassion is depicted as mercy. The major ideas are (1) forbearance shown to an offender, i.e. kindness instead of strictness or severity; (2) grace, i.e. divine favor or compassion; and (3) pity.
Principle #6: Jehovah God, as to His nature, is love. He consistently demonstrates His love by being compassionate. In certain instances, His compassion is depicted as grace. He is the Superior bending down to help us, the inferior; He is a gracious God.
Principle #7: Jehovah God, as to His nature, is love. He consistently demonstrates His love by being compassionate. In certain instances, His compassion is depicted as a Motherly feeling toward His children. Two specific manifestations of that Motherly feeling are tenderness and kindness. He is a tender and kind God.
Jehovah God's revelation of Himself, as a compassionate God, in His Word, meets every characteristic of Webster's definition of the word "compassion" and beyond. Let's thoroughly explore Webster's definition of the word "compassion" in the light of God's Self-revelation.
compassion "deep feeling for and understanding of misery or suffering and the concomitant desire to promote its alleviation : spiritual consciousness of the personal tragedy of another or others and selfless tenderness directed toward it."
Let's break this definition up into its constituent parts:
1. Compassion is a deep feeling for misery or suffering.
I have abundantly demonstrated through the Word of God that God has a deep feeling for the misery and suffering of His children. Hallelujah!!!
The word "compassion" has several synonyms, i.e. words that have essentially the same meaning and can be used interchangeably. By looking at these synonyms, we can pick up the nuances of the meaning of the concept of "compassion."
(The first synonym is:)
sympathy "4 a : the act or capacity of entering into or sharing the feelings or interests of another : the character or fact of being sensitive to or affected by another's emotions, experiences, or especially sorrows b : the feeling or mental state brought about by such sensitivity : the expression or demonstration of this feeling."
Jehovah God enters into and shares my feelings and my interests. Jehovah God is sensitive to and affected by my emotions, experiences and especially my sorrows.
(Let's break this down further.)
(1) "Sympathy" is an act or a capacity.
We know what an act is, but a capacity is an ability to do something. So, sympathy is either an action or an ability to act.
(2) "Sympathy" is the act of entering into or sharing the feelings or interests of another.
Sympathy does not denote being a bystander, but an active participant in someone's feelings and interests from a feeling, relating, practical perspective.
(3) "Sympathy" is also the character, i.e. personality, or fact of being sensitive to or affected by another person's emotions, experiences, or especially sorrows.
(4) "Sympathy" can also refer to the feeling or mental state brought about by being sensitive to another person's emotions, experiences or sorrow.
(5) "Sympathy" can also refer to the expression or demonstration of being sensitive to another person's emotions, experiences or sorrow.
Hebrews 4:15, "For we do no have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin."
1167: "I WAS THERE"
A mother once told of an incident which occurred shortly after she received the news that one of her sons had been killed in Germany. She said that while shopping, she saw a friend who had also lost a son in the war. When the two ladies met, they embraced without speaking. But in their silence each was eloquently communicating comfort to the other. Each was saying in her heart, "I know how you feel, for I too have gone through the deep waters of sorrow."
(Another synonym for "compassion" is:)
mercy "1 a : compassion or forbearance shown to an offender or subject : clemency or kindness extended to someone instead of strictness or severity; 2 a : a blessing regarded as an act of divine favor or compassion; 3 : relief of distress : compassion shown to victims of misfortune."
("Mercy" is slightly different from "sympathy," so let's analyze its definition.)
(1) "Compassion" is extended to anyone in misery or suffering, while "mercy" is extended to an offender or subject.
We are the offenders. We have offended God's holiness by sinning against Him in the persons of Adam and Eve, but God had mercy on us by sending His Son Jesus Christ.
Secondarily, God is Lord, King and absolute Potentate of the universe and we are His subjects.
(2) "Mercy" is leniency instead of strictness; kindness instead of severity.
You can see all through this definition the concept of God's grace, i.e. the unmerited favor of God.
Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.'
(3) "Mercy" is also a blessing that one has received as an act of divine grace or compassion.
"Mercy" is God not giving us what we deserve: hell!
Grace is God giving us what we do not deserve: salvation and its attendant blessings.
So, in Webster's definition of "mercy," the linguists see "mercy" as a combination of grace and mercy, i.e. grace which flows from mercy.
(4) "Mercy" can also stand for the actual relief of distress, i.e. love demonstrated to victims of misfortune.
946: FORGIVEN ONES MUST FORGIVE
A clerk was caught embezzling and was summoned to the office of his employer, who was a Christian. The least the man could expect was a blistering dismissal; he might even be turned over to the police. When the clerk entered the office, the older man spoke his name and asked him if he was guilty. Shamefully, the employee stammered out, " Y-y-yes." The employer told him he was not going to press charges, but then asked, "If I take you back, can I trust you?" When the surprised but still remorseful clerk assured him that he could be trusted, the employer continued. "You are the second man who has fallen and has been pardoned in this company," he said. "I was the first! I'm showing you mercy because I received mercy."
(So "sympathy" is the capacity to relate to another because of feelings of "compassion." And "mercy" is "compassion" shown to a special group of people.
But there is also another word that is very close to "mercy." It is the word:)
pity "2 a (1) sympathetic heartfelt sorrow for one that is suffering physically or mentally or is otherwise distressed or unhappy (as through misfortune, difficulties) : compassion, commiseration (2) : the capacity to feel such sorrow."
Whereas "mercy" seems to deal much more with the demonstration of "compassion" toward someone who is suffering, "pity" deals much more with feeling the sorrow of someone who is suffering.
(Let's analyze the definition of "pity" in an attempt to understand more about these synonyms.)
(1) "Pity" is a sympathetic, heartfelt sorrow for one suffering in any way.
Notice that the definition of "pity" begins with the concept of sympathy, but goes beyond the capacity, act, and relating of sympathy to the feelings of sympathy. We covered this in usage number 4 under the definition of "sympathy." "Pity" is not just sorrow, it is heartfelt sorrow towards any kind of suffering, i.e. physical or mental.
In our day, "pity" is considered an insult by most people because of the aspect of superiority and inferiority. But the meaning of "pity" from God's perspective is correct, because He is superior to us and we are inferior to Him. "Pity" can really be a very positive emotion from human being to human being, if it is devoid of superiority. We as human beings may have superior circumstances to one another, but we are all equal as human beings. Nobody is better than anyone else. So, heartfelt sorrow towards another suffering human being, without any feelings or display of superiority, is one of the greatest demonstrations of love possible.
(By way of contrast, I believe that it is necessary for us to briefly look at the word "empathy.")
empathy "2 : the capacity for participating in or a vicarious experiencing of another's feelings, volition, or ideas and sometimes another's movements to the point of executing bodily movement resembling his."
Jehovah God doesn't just have sympathy for us, He now has empathy for with us in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. Empathy is so closely relating to and identifying with another person that you take on bodily movements that resemble him/her. Have you ever seen the original Star Trek episode entitled "The Empath?" The "Empath" was a humanoid life form that was being held and tested by a group of alien scientist. This "Empath" had the ability to physically and emotionally heal another being by taking that person's pain away from him/her on to her. The aliens wanted to test how far the "Empath" would take this attribute. They wanted to know if she were willing to die, in the process, for another humanoid.
God so loved and felt the pain of the humans in the world that He became one of us. He took upon Himself the likeness of sinful flesh. He subjected Himself to the obedience, humility, degradation, suffering and death of the cross. He became like one of us and was not ashamed to be called our Brother.
Hallelujah! We have a God who is compassionate; Who has a deep feeling for my misery and suffering; Who demonstrates sympathy, mercy, pity, and empathy towards my human plight!
(Now is the day of salvation. Come to Jesus, now!)
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