Discovering ‘compassion’ this Easter
What comes to mind when you think of compassion? It is just about having sympathy, or do you take it one step further and show compassion through acts of kindness?
Throughout the Easter season, we are exploring the concept of compassion.
Compassion is a word that many of us are familiar with. Dictionary definitions of the word ‘compassion’ include:
- ‘sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others’
- ‘a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering,’ and
- ‘sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it’.
Can you see the Easter message in these definitions?
At Easter, we remember that God came to earth in the form of a man to live and die for us, so that we can be reconnected back to Him. Jesus certainly demonstrated sympathy and concern for the suffering that sin causes in our lives. And He certainly demonstrated a deep desire to alleviate our anguish and sorrow.
This Easter, we remember and humbly thank God for His deep love and compassion for us. Here at Wesley Mission, Jesus’ compassion for humanity is our motivation to support people in need and help ease their sufferings. But we know that through-out human history there will never be a greater example of compassionate love than what Jesus did for us while on earth.
But did you know that there is so much more to God’s compassion that just sympathetic concern?
An alternative definition
The word ‘compassion’ is made up of two words that reveal even more to us about the depth of love Jesus has for us.
COM + PASSION
These days we think of ‘passion’ as simply a ‘strong and barely controllable emotion’ or ‘an intense desire or enthusiasm for something’.
But the origin of the word ‘passion’ comes from the Latin ‘pati’ and actually means ‘suffer’.
That puts a new spin on things, don’t you think?
Having passion fundamentally means to suffer.
The prefix ‘com’ is also Latin in origin and basically means ‘with’, ‘together’, ‘in association’, and ‘jointly’.
We see the use of this prefix in words like community, communication and communal, which all embody the idea of coming together and being with others.
Living out compassion
Our Word and deed ministry at Wesley Mission has at its heart the desire to come alongside people. To journey with them. To walk with individuals and families through good and tough times. We desire to connect with others in ways that help them realise they’re not alone.
When the two word elements of ‘passion’ and ‘com’ are brought together, we get the word ‘compassion’. And from these word elements we can see that having compassion actually means to ‘suffer with’ someone. To unite with people in their suffering with the desire to alleviate it. Helping them to realise they’re not alone. Being willing to hurt because they hurt.
When Jesus had compassion, He knew that it would inherently mean to suffer alongside us. We see through His life on earth that He suffered a great deal, just as we also suffer these days. Through His own experiences of suffering on earth, Jesus knows what each of us is going through. He can identify with the pain, loss, hurt, frustration, anger and sorrow that we each face at various times through our lives.
And Jesus was willing to suffer to alleviate the ultimate suffering caused by sin. His journey to the cross was not an accident. He knew that His desire to alleviate our suffering would necessarily mean that He would suffer with us by dying on the cross.
It is at the cross that we best see the compassionate heart of God—His willingness to suffer to relieve us of the anguish this world throws at us. It is through the cross that Jesus connects with us in suffering and reveals His willingness to identify with each of us.
Wow, the depth of God’s love for us!
The compassion of God drove the Passion of Christ.