August 3, 2009
I had the opportunity this past week to visit with an old friend from out of state. He used to do youth work in the area but now is a policeman back east. I had a great conversation with him and his wife. I was particularly interested to see how the transition into police work (he also serves with a SWAT team) had affected him and his wife.
At the end of our visit, I asked him what I could be praying for. I expected to hear things like “safety on patrol” or “peace for my wife while I am on duty”. But instead, he asked me to pray that he would have compassion on those he had to arrest.
…compassion for the bad guys, now there is a novel thought that can only come from the heart of a believer in Jesus Christ. As he put it, “but for the grace of God, I might be that guy in hand cuffs!”
As God often orchestrates, my recent scripture reading seems to parallel that conversation. I am in Matthew and on every other page or so, the concept of compassion is being discussed. So I went looking to see what was really behind that biblical concept.
There are basically two words in Hebrew translated “compassion” in our Old Testament. One means “to have pity” or to be willing to spare someone retribution. The other term has love at its root and it conveys the ability to find and show mercy on another.
The word most frequently used in the New Testament is “spagkhozomai” which literally means to “have the bowels yearn.” It carries that idea of a strong emotion that moves you to do something. In Matthew 9:36, Jesus is moved with that strong compassion as he observed
And it isn’t just Matthew that focuses our attention on this term. In spite of being cultural enemies, the “good” Samaritan in Luke 10 is described as having compassion on the beaten man left on the side on the road. Everyone else just walked on by, but he was moved with compassion and that compassion moved him to action. He bandaged his wounds, took him to an inn and stayed to care for him. When the Samaritan finally had to leave, he left money for his care and promised more if it was needed.
True biblical compassion moves us. It isn’t just a kind hearted emotional response. It is action. As you consider your response this week to the myriad of needs that will cross your path, consider the words of Colossians 3:12-13:
And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility. Gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, whoever has a complaint against anyone, just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.
My friend is right…the guy in the hand cuffs might have been you. So show some compassion this week!
Warmest regards in Christ,
Sherry L. Worel
Stoneybrooke Christian Schools