What would you say is the difference between sympathy, empathy and compassion? Perhaps it will help to clarify the differences between them if you think of individuals who exemplify each of them. While these words are closely related, they are not synonymous with one another. Sympathy means you can understand what the person is feeling. Empathy means that you feel what a person is feeling. Compassion is moving beyond sympathy and empathy to the willingness to relieve the suffering of another.” While the first two are foundational emotions for making a connection with other people, little is accomplished to relieve the suffering or pain of another unless it ignites compassion.
Isn’t it interesting that throughout the Bible, God is portrayed as being compassionate? The Lord reminded Moses and many of the Old Testament leaders of His mercy and compassion for the Israelites. In the Psalms, David often wrote of the Lord’s compassion, knowing His God would always take care of Him in wonderful ways. When Jesus came, He demonstrated visibly what it meant to “humble Himself and take on the nature of a servant” in order to help His followers understand what compassion really means. Ultimately His willingness to suffer on behalf of someone else, led Him to the cross, didn’t it? God knew there was only one way for you and me (for all mankind) to be forgiven and to be saved from the self-destruction of our sinful nature, so in His great love and compassion, Jesus suffered in our place.
It has often been said “mercy is not getting what we really deserve” and “grace is getting what we do not deserve”. As you contemplate these ideas, do you agree they are most clearly seen in acts of compassion. It’s who God is, isn’t it? Is He YOUR merciful, gracious and compassionate Savior? Let those realities fill you up with joy and delight!