Compassion is a central aspect of Christian belief, something that is meant to be a defining attribute of Christians.
Much is said about compassion in the modern world and unfortunately, Christians are not always at the center of the discussion. In reality, compassion is supposed to be one of the defining virtues of Christians, as it is found in the center of the Gospel message.
The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops has provided one of the most succinct explanations of compassion in a document they published in 1990 entitled Called to Compassion and Responsibility.
Compassion is much more than sympathy. It involves an experience of intimacy by which one participates in another’s life. The Latin word misericordia expresses the basic idea: The compassionate person has a heart for those in misery. This is not simply the desire to be kind. The truly compassionate individual works at his or her own cost for the others’ real good, helping to rescue them from danger as well as alleviate their suffering.
Compassion can also be described as a “suffering with,” highlighting an ability to accompany someone in their suffering.
As noted in the above quotation, compassion “is not simply the desire to be kind.” While kindness is part of the equation, true compassion means going of out one’s way to be present to someone in need of help.
The parable of the Good Samaritan is probably the most concrete example of compassion, presenting a model of how we should not only help someone in need, but make an attempt to ensure their future.
Jesus also repeatedly displayed his compassion for others, recognizing their suffering and walking with them with love and mercy.
Furthermore, compassion is meant to be open to all those who are suffering, regardless of their situation. Christians are challenged to show compassion to all people, even to the most hardened sinners. Compassion is centered on showing Christ’s love to all people, showing them the ultimate pathway to Heaven through concrete acts of love.
Christianity and compassion go hand-in-hand.