EXHORTATIONS AND ADMONITIONS TO BE COMPASSIONATE
WHEN LOSERS ARE FINDERS
Most of us have had the delight of finding something of value - a dollar bill on the sidewalk, a piece of jewelry in the grass, a tool by the roadside.
A story from the Choice Gleanings calendar illustrates the point. Drifting snow and bitter cold threatened the lives of Indian evangelist Sadhu Sundar Singh and his Tibetan companion as they crossed a Himalayan mountain pass. Fighting the "sleep of death," they stumbled over a mound in the trail. It was a man, half-dead. The Tibetan refused to stop but continued on alone. The compassionate Sadhu, however, shouldered the burden the best he could. Through his struggling, he began to warm up, as did the unconscious man. But before reaching the village they found the Tibetan - frozen to death.
God has not called us to isolation, but to involvement. Those who choose isolation over compassionate involvement in the lives of others, may be choosing death as opposed to life. If we sense an inner void in our lives, maybe we're clinging to worldly values?
What are the most important values in life? Honesty, justice, materialism, individualism, love, honor, patriotism, family, religion, God, etc? Well after 30 messages on compassion, 14 in the Old Testament, 2 comparing and contrasting Webster's definition of compassion with God's Self-revelation of Himself as a compassionate God in the Old Testament, and 14 messages in the New Testament mainly concerning God's demonstration of His compassionate nature in the life of Jesus Christ, we can say that compassion is a major value for those of us who are Christians.
(Let me further confirm this proposition and end this messages series by exploring the rest of the occurrences of the word "compassion" in the NASB. Let's get started by turning to Ephesians 4:32.)
Ephesians 4:32, "And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."
Now you sharp people who have been listening thus far, or who have been here from the beginning are looking for the word "compassion." Well, you don't see it, because it is not there. The word that we want to look at in this Scripture is "tender-hearted." The word "tender-hearted" is the Greek word
This is a compound word that is comprised of two words: the prefix eu 2095 which is an adverb that means well, and splagchnon 4698 which means "an intestine." We have already studied
splagchnon "b. the bowels were regarded by the Hebrews as the seat of the tenderer affections, especially kindness, benevolence, compassion; hence equivalent to our heart, [tender mercies, affections, etc.]."
So, the Greek word means literally "well-intestined, or well-boweled, or well-hearted, or tender-hearted, or very compassionate.
(What does tender-heartedness look like?)
THE TEST OF LOVE
A young sailor called his parents after his release from military service. He asked them if he could bring his buddy home with him. "You see, Mom," he said, "my friend was pretty badly wounded in battle. He has only one leg, one arm, and one eye." After a long pause the mother said grudgingly, "Of course, Son, he can stay with us a little while." Her voice, however, carried the message that they would not like to be burdened very long with such a severely handicapped person. Two days later they received a telegram saying their son had plunged to his death from a hotel window. When his body arrived for burial, his mother was heartbroken, for he had only one leg, one arm, and one eye! The memory of her last conversation with him still lingers with her, and she often cries out, "Oh, why didn't I speak more carefully, more lovingly? If I could only take back those selfish words, 'He can stay with us a little while.' But it is too late now!"
But tender-heartedness is not just a nice characteristic to cultivate and a value that Christians should cultivate, God commands that Christians be compassionate towards one another!!! So, finally, we come to a direct command to be compassionate towards one another. Although I have touched upon our obligation to display the compassion of God to sinners and saints alike, this has not been our focus. We have focused upon the nature of God and His demonstration of His nature through His Son Jesus Christ. But now after 30 messages on compassion, we are ready to entertain a few commandments and exhortations to be compassionate.
In the passage before us, Ephesians 4:32, we, Christians, are commanded to be tender-hearted, i.e. deeply compassionate towards our brothers and sisters in the Lord. In the Greek, it is actually a command to keep on becoming tender-hearted! We are commanded to continue to grow in our emotions of compassion, pity, and mercy. Yes we are to grow in Bible knowledge, and we are to build up our Spirit-controlled wills through exercise. But often in the modern Christian community, we neglect to properly and adequately deal with our emotions. We are to keep deepening our compassionate emotions!!! The Christian community should be characterized by compassion. For one last time compassion is "a deep feeling for and an understanding of suffering with an accompanying desire to relieve that suffering" (Webster's Third New International Dictionary). Compassion is not some superficial or romantic feeling; it is a gut-wrenching sense of the needs of others that motivates us to action.
(We are now ready to explore the one other Greek word that is translated "compassion" in the New Testament of the NASB.)
That word is oiktirmos 3628. The concept behind this word is similar to that of Hebrews. The Hebrews believed that that intestines were the seat of compassion. This word is a plural word for the organs of the body cavity, in short the bowels in which compassion resides. This is a heart of compassion. Thayer says that "in the Scriptures it is mostly plural for emotions, longings, manifestations of pity." This particular word is used two times in the New Testament. It is used on time in Philippians 2:1-2.
Phillipians 2:1-2, "If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose."
Here, in Paul's letter to the Philippians, He exhorts them to the important characteristic of unity. There can be no real Christian community or strong witness to the world without the characteristic of unity. But He exhorts the Philippians to unity on the basis of four other exhortations or motivations to unity.
1. The Encouragement That Is In Christ.
The word encouragement is
encouragement 3874 paraklesis "3. exhortation, admonition, encouragement" (Thayer's).
If there is any exhortation in Christ, Himself. Since we are saved, does not Christ Himself provide some exhortation to unity? Doesn't even Christ Himself have any impact upon you for the purpose of unity?
John 15:12, "This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you."
(Motive number two is:)
2. The Consolation Of Love.
consolation 3890 paramuthion "persuasive address" (Thayer's).
The word love here is agape love, the love that God is, the love that Jesus Christ manifested upon the cross, the love that is produced in the heart of a yielded Christian. Is there any persuasive power or speech in agape love to move you to unity?
Romans 5:5b, "Because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us."
The Apostle Paul is building a powerful exhortation to unity by illustrating the motives or the ground for his appeal.
(Motive number three is:)
3. The Fellowship Of The Spirit.
The word fellowship is koinonia.
koinonia "fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation, intercourse: 3. a benefaction jointly contributed, a collection, a contribution, as exhibiting an embodiment and proof of fellowship" (Thayer's).
Is there no joint participation, no association, no community, no intercourse of the Spirit that can move us to unity? We are partakers of the same divine nature and have all been made to drink of the one Spirit. Isn't that an incentive to unity. If there is any joint participation in the Spirit, it ought to move us to unity.
(The fourth and final motive to unanimity is:)
4. Affection And Compassion.
affection 4698 splagchnon "bowels, intestines (the heart, lungs, liver, etc.); b. in the Grk. poets from Aeschylus down the bowels were regarded as the seat of the more violent passions, such as anger and love; but by the Hebrews as the seat of the tenderer affections, esp. kindness, benevolence, compassion; hence i.q. our heart [tender mercies, affections, etc.]" (Thayer's).
compassion 3628 oiktirmos "emotions, longings, manifestations of pity" (Thayer's).
Paul is saying, "Don't you have any love, any heart, any feelings, any emotions?" Paul's appeal for unity is built upon the encouragement or exhortation that is in Christ, the persuasion of the love of Christ, the joint participation of the Holy Spirit, and the tender emotions that any Christian should have. Are your emotions tender or callous? Has your heart been softened or hardened by life? Has your heart been softened or hardened by trials and tribulations? Have you trusted your soul to a faithful Creator and allowed Him to tenderize your emotions?
We are trying to highlight the meaning of oiktirmos. The Philippians should have had tender affections, compassion, and deep emotions of pity for Paul. These are the kind of emotions that you ought to have for your pastor! These are the kind of emotions that you ought to have for your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ!!! These are also the kind of emotions that you ought to have for any human being.
This particular word, oiktirmos, only occurs one more time in the New Testament in
Colossians 3:12, "And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."
Here we entertain the last exhortation or command with respect to compassion in this particular study. We are commanded to put on a heart of compassion. The word "heart" is splagchna intestine and the word "compassion" is oiktirmos deep longings, emotions, manifestations of pity. Or more literally, "Put on bowels of deep longings, emotions, and manifestations of pity."
Why do you think God, through Paul, commands the Colossians to clothe themselves with a heart full of the deep feelings of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience?
1. This kind of compassion is what Christianity is all about.
2. This kind of compassion ministers to the saints!
3. This kind of compassion draws sinners to Christ!
4. Because it is sorely needed in our communities.
I had to go see Malcolm X, to keep up with what is going on in our world, and I enjoyed the movie. I was moved by Malcolm's vision, determination, faithfulness, and personal conversion after his trip to Mecca. Malcolm's transformed vision and final message of love, unity, and cooperation between all people is the only hope for this world. But there is one major thing missing from the movie, you can only find this love, unity, and cooperation through Jesus Christ!!!
5. This kind of compassion represents and glorifies God!
SHARING THE PAIN
The need for the kind of sympathy that truly ministers to people is something that Dr. Paul Brand has beautifully expressed in his book Fearfully and Wonderfully Made. Concerning the matter of comfort, he writes: "Along with most doctors I know, I often feel inadequate in the face of real suffering . . . We fight back the lumps in our throats, march resolutely to the hospital for visits, mumble a few cheerful words, perhaps look up articles on what to say to the grieving. But when I ask patients and their families, 'Who helped you in your suffering?' I hear a strange, imprecise answer. The person described rarely has smooth answers or a winsome, effervescent personality. It is someone quiet, understanding, who listens more than he talks, who does not judge or even offer much advice. 'A sense of presence.' 'Someone there when I needed him.' A hand to hold, an understanding, bewildered hug. A shared lump in the throat."
I can hear some of you ask, "If I chose to live my life in this way; if I choose to be compassionate, what shall I get: what shall be my reward?"
Your reward will not be what you think, because people will not commend you for being compassionate towards those who are in need and in pain. A few people may even dislike you because of your care and concern for unfortunate people, but you will experience a richness of life that few experience on this earth. You will experience a fulfillment in doing the will of God. You will experience a fulness in extending the love of God to many. You will be loved by many. People will want to be around you and want to be your friend. Your Christian witness will be great. Your ministry to the saints will be tremendous. But most of all God will be well respresented and glorified. I exhort you then, "Continue to become more tender-hearted towards one another!!!"
(Now is the day of Salvation. Come to Jesus, now!)
Call to Discipleship
 Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon Of The New Testament, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Nineteenth Zondervan Printing 1978, pp. 584-585.