Compassion and Empathy

 

One of the identifying traits of Christ and of those that follow Christ is compassion. And although the word never occurs in the Bible I think we can agree empathy is another of those traits. Letís look at the definitions of those two words.

1.      Compassion: Deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it

2.      Empathy: Identification with and understanding of another's situation, feelings, and motives.

You see empathy is closely related to compassion and in fact the two words are nearly synonymous.Jesus very much empathized with men because he could identify with them. He too was tempted, he too was acquainted with sorrow and suffering. He knew what it was like to be mocked and lied about. He knew about injustice and keen disappointment. Think about it. I donít need to quote scripture to you because you know it is true. So when you empathize, compassion naturally follows. I believe we all need to master the ability to empathize and show compassion. Letís read a few scriptures that illustrate the compassion of Jesus.

1.      (Mat 9:35-36 NIV)Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. {36} When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

2.      (Mat 14:14 NIV)When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

3.      (Mat 15:32 NIV)Jesus called his disciples to him and said, "I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way."

4.      (Mat 20:30-34 NIV)Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!" {31} The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!" {32} Jesus stopped and called them. "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked. {33} "Lord," they answered, "we want our sight." {34} Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.

5.      (Mark 1:40-42 NIV)A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, "If you are willing, you can make me clean." {41} Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" {42} Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.

6.      (Rom 9:15 NIV)For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." (Potter and clay)

7.      (2 Cor 1:3-4 NIV)Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, {4} who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

8.      (Eph 4:32 NIV)Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

9.      (Phil 2:1-4 NIV)If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, {2} then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. {3} Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. {4} Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

10.  (Col 3:12-13 NIV)Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. {13} Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

11.  (James 5:9-11 NIV)Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! {10} Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. {11} As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

12.  (1 Pet 3:8-11 NIV)Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. {9} Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. {10} For, "Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. {11} He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.

 

There is a distinction between Compassion and Empathy that I think is worth noting. Compassion is about suffering and wanting to help. But Empathy is about Identifying and wanting to share. Sharing opens us up to not only sorrow but also joy. It is important for us to share not only in difficult times but also when times are good.

1.      (Rom 8:17 NIV)Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

2.      (2 Cor 1:7 NIV)And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

3.      (Heb 13:16 NIV)And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

4.      (Rom 12:13 NIV)Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

 

So we have reviewed the Bible lessons on Compassion and Empathy. Now letís summarize what we have seen. Hear what our Lord said when asked what must be done to inherit eternal life.

*†† (Luke 10:27-28 NIV)He answered: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind' ; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" {28} "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."

Want to be Christ-like? Want to be God-like? God is love. Be loving.

*†† (1 Cor 13:13 NIV)And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.