Thursday, July 29, 2021

The Elements of Compassion and Benevolence

 Thursday, July 29, 2021

To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.  I Peter 3:8-9

The Elements of Compassion and Benevolence

Learning compassion and benevolence involves both sympathy and empathy. Sympathy is living with feeling for others.  Sympathy doesn’t mean simply feeling sorry for someone, but it means to experience things together with them. It allows us to get inside and see things as they see them and feel things as they feel them.  It is Christianity that has taught people to care.  It is out of pain for others and with others that we reach out to help others.  To try to help without hurting with people is impossible for the Christian.

Sometimes we must understand beyond our own experience. That's empathy.  Empathy (Gr. empatheia 'feeling into") is the ability to discern emotions in others and then to experience, within ourselves, the same emotion.   It goes beyond sympathy, which is simply the mental awareness of the general plight of another person but with no sacrificial sharing in what is being felt.

1 Corinthians 12:26 gives the best description of real Christian sympathy…not just crying with others but rejoicing as well.  ...but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.  We want to rejoice with each other as well as share sorrows.  

How can we develop a merciful spirit? At our rare times of introspection, we do desire to be more merciful and forgiving, but we seem to have unlearned those emotions.  How can we relearn them? How can we be, as the Scripture exhorts us, more tender-hearted, kind, and forgiving? 

Perspective - Seeing as God sees can be a giant step toward a merciful, tender-hearted, and forgiving attitude. 

  • Sometimes we are too busy for people to be very important. We are caught up with our goals, our projects. We see ourselves as busy people, always behind, working hard to get things done. In the hustle of busy lives, it is easy to see people as either roadblocks or steppingstones. It's often too easy to evaluate them in terms of whether they fit into our plans or not. 
  • It is exceedingly difficult to see people as individually important and valuable to God. Instead, we categorize people. But the truth is that God loves every one of them. Even those we think are losers are important to God. God loves the prisoner, the homosexual, the bag lady, and the bag boy just as much as He loves the medical students, and the theological students, the teachers, and the stockbrokers. All people are special in God's eyes. 

Sympathy invokes the heart of Christ. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses... Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16) His heart endeavors to restore out of a spirit of meekness and tenderness. 

Sympathy and selfishness cannot co-exist.  Sympathy will live where Christ rules and reigns. It is impossible not to care when Christ in you reaches out to Christ in someone else.


Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4


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