Several years ago, Liberty Mutual produced a series of commercials as part of their Responsibility Project that showcased acts of kindness and compassion. Maybe you have seen it. In each scene an onlooker witnessed some acts of kindness and compassion shown to another person and then in turn was inspired and reminded to do the same for someone else. In one scene, a man sitting in a café sees a woman stop another man from crossing the street because he was not paying attention and was about to get hit by oncoming traffic. That man in the café then is seen in the next segment helping a young mother get her cumbersome stroller off of a city bus. In another scene a woman working in a restaurant kitchen sees a man help one of the chefs reach a bowl from a high shelf. She then in turn stops a ball from going into a busy street so that the young boys playing with it wouldn’t have to risk getting it. The commercial continues through several exchanges like these until it circles back to the original scene shown with the man in the café watching the woman stop the aloof walker from crossing the street. It is a powerful commercial that can bring both a smile and conviction to each of us. I look at my own life and see that I am not always ready, eager, or willing to step out and act in compassionate ways when I see a need. Now, there are many times that I have, but I know that if you are like me there are many opportunities that have passed us by.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word “compassion” as a feeling of wanting to help someone who is sick, hungry, in trouble, etc. The definition goes further as it describes a sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it. Interestingly enough the Greek word for compassion, as found in the New Testament, is the word “σπλαγχνίζομαι” (splagchnizomai.) This word was also used to communicate having pity or sympathy for someone in trouble or need.
You and I don’t have to look too far to see a need to show compassion to other people, but for Christians, this desire stems from something else first. As believers in Christ, we are reminded of the compassion first shown to us by our loving Heavenly Father – when we were in desperate need of His compassion. The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 5 that even when we were still enemies of God because of our sin, He still sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for us, to save and redeem us. Even when we did not deserve it, God still loved us and had pity on us.
There is something quite active in the word compassion. It goes beyond a simple feeling to a desired action and deed. May we seek to thank God for His great love and compassion for us with a desire to share that same love and compassion to those around us.