1 Peter 3:8—Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.
Yesterday we discussed the need for local churches to be places of sympathy. Peter also commands us to “have . . . a tender heart.” The actual word Peter uses only shows up one other time in the New Testament, in Ephesians 4:32—Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Many English translations use the word compassion. In fact, another form of this same root word is used 24 times in the Gospels and it’s almost always translated as compassion.
But what’s the difference between compassion and sympathy? These words are cousins, but they’re not quite the same. Sympathy is to step into the feelings of another and feel them as your own. Compassion is to step into the suffering of another and work to alleviate it. Nearly every time the verb form of this word is used in the Gospels, it’s connected to action. To have a tender, compassionate heart is to do more than feel for and with others. It’s to act in response to the feelings of others.
As I thought about this call for us to have compassion towards one another, I had no shortage of examples to share with you about how you are a compassionate people. I thought of the Zoom call we had back in March when one of our members shared that she wasn’t sure if she had a place to stay as her family was caught in limbo with a military move and the Covid-19 shutdowns. Immediately several members offered this family a place to stay. I thought of our Helping Hands ministry that work so hard to serve grieving families by providing a free meal after a funeral service. I thought of the impromptu gathering of ladies who laid hands on Patti Hall to pray with her after her diagnosis over a year ago. I thought of all the ladies who have cared so well for her as she suffers. I thought of Fellowship Groups who have served widows by meeting practical needs like helping with yardwork, home improvement projects, and moving. I thought about those of you who have held the hands of a suffering saint in a hospital or a nursing home, those who went to sing outside a home during the shutdowns, those who delivered food and supplies, those who gave to support benevolence needs within the body. I could go on and on and on.
Let me ask you, Christian: who in your church family could benefit from an act of compassion this week? How could God use you to serve and surprise a hurting church member this week? Again, if you don’t know your church family than you’re going to struggle showing compassion towards those who are hurting. So God is calling some of you to grow in your knowledge of your church family so you can grow in your ability to show compassion.
If you don’t know someone who could benefit from an act of compassion this week, I would encourage you to talk with one of the elders. Once a month we talk and pray through the entire PBC membership and one of the things we do is focus on those who are suffering. PBC member, there is no shortage of suffering saints in this boy. There is no shortage of family members who could benefit from your compassion towards them.
Holly and I were watching a TV show a few weeks ago that showed a soccer team, absolutely devastated after a heartbreaking loss. The coach looked at his players and said, “I promise you, there is something worse out there than being sad. And that is being alone and being sad. Ain’t no one in this room alone.” Church: there ain’t no one in this room alone.
We should expect the local church to be a place of compassion.