Become “Tenderly Compassionate”
NEVER before have so many of our fellow humans been in such dire need of compassionate help as they face famine, sickness, poverty, crime, civil strife, and natural disasters. Compassion denotes a sympathetic awareness of another’s suffering or adversity combined with a desire to alleviate it. Like the warm rays of the bright sun, compassion can soothe a distressed soul, lessen pain, and lift the spirits of an afflicted person.
We can show compassion by our actions and our words—caring for others and being there when they need us. It is good not to limit compassion to family, friends, and acquaintances. We can widen out to include people whom we do not even know. “If you love those loving you, what reward do you have?” asked Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount. This compassionate man also said: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.”—Matthew 5:46, 47; 7:12.
You can read these words—known as the Golden Rule—in the Holy Scriptures. Many agree that the Bible is the ultimate guide to showing compassion. The Scriptures repeatedly express our obligation to help those who, for whatever reason, cannot help themselves. The Bible presents its Author and our Creator, Jehovah God, as the one who is preeminently compassionate.
For example, we read: “[God] defends the rights of orphans and widows. He cares for foreigners and gives them food and clothing.” (Deuteronomy 10:18, Contemporary English Version) Jehovah God is described as “executing judgment for the defrauded ones, the One giving bread to the hungry ones.” (Psalm 146:7) Regarding disadvantaged immigrants, Jehovah decreed: “The alien resident . . . should become to you like a native of yours; and you must love him as yourself.”—Leviticus 19:34.
Displaying compassion, however, does not always come naturally. The apostle Paul wrote to the Christians at Colossae: “Strip off the old personality with its practices, and clothe yourselves with the new personality, which through accurate knowledge is being made new according to the image of the One who created it . . . As God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion.”—Colossians 3:9, 10, 12.
Thus, cultivating a compassionate attitude takes effort. That attitude is a part of “the new personality” that Christians are expected to put on. Paul lived in the brutal world of ancient Rome. He encouraged his fellow believers to make drastic changes in their personality in order for them to become more sympathetic, more compassionate.
The Power of Compassion
Some people view those who show compassion as weak and vulnerable. Is such a perception correct?
Not at all! The real force behind genuine compassion is deep love, which originates with God, the personification of that quality. “God is love.” (1 John 4:16) Jehovah is rightly called “the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3) The expression rendered “tender mercies” basically means “pity, compassion for the ills of others.” Why, Jehovah “is kind toward the unthankful and wicked”!—Luke 6:35.
Our Creator requires that we too show kindly qualities, such as compassion. We read at Micah 6:8: “He has told you, O earthling man, what is good. And what is Jehovah asking back from you but to exercise justice and to love kindness?” At Proverbs 19:22, we read: “The desirable thing in earthling man is his loving-kindness.” God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who perfectly reflected the personality of his Father, similarly admonished his followers: “Continue becoming merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36) The Jerusalem Bible renders this exhortation: “Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.”
There is a good reason to be like that, since compassion has the power to bestow rich rewards. We often see the truth of what is written at Proverbs 11:17: “A man of loving-kindness is dealing rewardingly with his own soul.” When we show compassion to someone in need, God considers this a favor done to Him. He assumes the responsibility to repay kindness for any compassion his worshippers show. King Solomon stated under inspiration: “He that is showing favor to the lowly one is lending to Jehovah, and his treatment He will repay to him.” (Proverbs 19:17) And Paul wrote: “You know that each one, whatever good he may do, will receive this back from Jehovah.”—Ephesians 6:8.
Compassion has the power to maintain harmony and to contribute to the resolving of conflict or friction. It helps to clear up misunderstandings, and it paves the way for forgiveness. Misunderstandings may occur because we do not always express our thoughts or feelings as we wish we had, or our actions might be misinterpreted. Here compassion comes to the rescue and helps to preserve peace. It is easy to forgive a person who is known for being compassionate. Compassion helps us to measure up to Paul’s counsel for Christians: “Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another.”—Colossians 3:13.
Compassion—Sympathy in Action
Moreover, compassion has the power to relieve affliction. As we have noted, it reflects a spirit of sympathy toward those in distress and causes us to suffer with those who suffer. Compassion involves tender regard for people in misery and positive action to help such ones.
By being sympathetic, Christians imitate Jesus. He was never too busy to help others in both material and spiritual ways. When he discerned that others were in need, he compassionately found a way to help.
Consider how Jesus reacted when he saw crowds of spiritually destitute people: “On seeing the crowds he felt pity for them, because they were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) Regarding the word here rendered “felt pity,” one Bible scholar says that it denotes “an emotion which moves a man to the very depths of his being.” In fact, this word has been called one of the strongest words in Greek for the feeling of compassion.
In a similar way, compassionate Christians respond quickly to the material and spiritual needs of others. The apostle Peter wrote: “All of you be like-minded, showing fellow feeling, having brotherly affection, tenderly compassionate.” (1 Peter 3:8) For instance, when a family of needy Christians had to move to a new area for health reasons, fellow believers there let them use a house rent-free for six months. The husband relates: “Every day they came to see how we were doing, and their encouraging comments made us feel at home.”
True Christians are also concerned about the needs of strangers. They gladly give of their time, energy, and means to serve people they do not know. Jehovah’s Witnesses made up the volunteers described in the preceding article who helped total strangers.
The Christian congregation is thus infused with an atmosphere of compassion and loving-kindness. Motivated by love, members of the congregation are energized to find ways to serve. Because of various personal problems, orphans and widows in the congregation may need your concern and empathy. Could you help such ones to cope with poverty, limited medical care, lack of adequate housing, or other personal difficulties?
Consider a couple in Greece. The husband suffered a stroke. He and his wife were taken to a hospital hundreds of miles away. Their meager income, however, depended on their orange grove being harvested. Who would do that while they were away at the hospital? The local congregation took action. They harvested and sold the oranges, providing a source of income for the needy couple, as well as giving them peace of mind.
Compassion can be shown in many ways. For instance, compassionate Christians realize that at times the main thing some afflicted ones need is kindly visits from people who will listen with a sympathetic ear, show empathy, and provide Scriptural comfort.—Romans 12:15.
Enjoy a Compassionate Atmosphere
The worldwide Christian congregation has proved to be a haven of peace and comfort where compassion and kindness are shown. True Christians realize that compassion attracts, while ruthlessness repels. Thus, as they try to imitate their heavenly Father, they strive to be “tenderly compassionate” in practical ways.
Jehovah’s Witnesses warmly invite you to experience the compassionate, loving, caring atmosphere that permeates their Christian community. They are certain that you will find that environment welcoming and appealing.—Romans 15:7.
[Picture on page 5]
Paul urged Christians at Colossae to clothe themselves with the tender affections of compassion
[Pictures on page 7]
When Jesus discerned a need, he compassionately found a way to help