Thursday, May 01, 2008

Compassion Of God

The author of the week in review of our lesson suggests that one of the objectives should be to “sense a desire to experience the compassion of God on a daily basis.” At first sight this sounds as a lofty objective. However, if we pay closer attention it is deeper than what it seems. It begs to question: What is the compassion of God? Does God desire to sense or experience compassion or does it just happen? How does God sense or experience compassion? How can we experience it?

In the dictionary, the word compassion means: a. sympathetic feeling, b. mercy, c. pity, and d. an expression of sorrow for another’s loss, grief or misfortune. The word used in the Bible is splagchna, which indicates no ordinary pity but the deepest emotion one is capable of, an emotion that arises from the very depths of one’s being. It refers to "the inward parts," "the bowels," considered the seat of the emotions in the ancient world. Compassion goes beyond sympathy (which merely can be intellectual). Compassion comes from the inside, from the heart and even the very gut. It suggests an ‘intensive’ involvement with the other, like the love the father showed to the prodigal son (Luke 15:20) and the compassion exhibited by the Good Samaritan and what those who left the victim lying in the ground refused to feel (Luke 10:33). Both parables use the word splagchna, which is the compassion of God.

How does God experience it? Probably, the same way Christ did. Christ probably experienced in His body a revolt or wrench in His gut or stomach. He experienced something strong and intense. It was something He could not ignore. It moved Him to respond toward what He saw. Sometimes the response was just prayer, other times it was speaking words of comfort, and other times it was healing those for whom He felt splagchna.

In the New Gospels, Christ is quoted feeling splagchna at least four times. In Matthew 9: 35,36 It says that Jesus felt compassion for the people “because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” In Mark 1:40, 41 it said that moved with compassion He touched a leper to heal him. In Matthew 20:29-34 it says that Jesus, moved with compassion, touched the eyes of the blind men to heal them. In Luke 7: 11-15 Jesus again moved with compassion touched the bier -the frame on which dead bodies were conveyed to the grave – to resurrect the child to his mother.

Can we sense a desire for something that God experiences? Again another question is the answer. Does God desire to feel compassion? The probable answer is no. If splagchna is God’s compassion then it is born out of agape. One can only desire what one does not have. God is agape. This would mean that God feels compassion automatically. He has no need to desire it.

Can we sense or feel splagchna? Not unless God gives it to us. You can try all you want to sense it; if it is not there you will not sense it. The verb to sense has several meanings. According to the dictionary it can mean: the faculty of perceiving by means of sense organs; to perceive by the senses; a bodily function or mechanism (a sight, hearing, or smell) involving the action and effect of a stimulus on a sense organ; to be or become aware of; and / or to detect. What ever you are sensing is either in your body, pressing against it (If it is touch or taste), or is within your range of detection (if it is seeing, smelling, or hearing). When one feels splagchna it presses against your body, as any biological need. It requires attention and response. It can only be released by submitting to what the Holy Spirit would have you do in the moment.

Then what should you do? You should pray that God fills you with a desire to submit to His righteousness and let Him fill you with His agape. As the lesson says the single force that moved Jesus was agape – agape from the belly or gut. Splagchna, as a byproduct of this, will flow automatically. You will see others suffering and immediately you will feel in your body an intense feeling that will move you to respond in the person’s favor.