If you were asked to describe someone important in your life with only one word could you do it? I would certainly struggle. For instance, if I had to describe my wife, Marlene, in one word, I would have too many to choose from. Words like patient, caring, bright, hard-working (the hyphen keeps it somewhat in the “one word” category), talented, lovely, Spirit-controlled (again, the hyphen)—and that is the short list.
Trying to capture a person’s heart in one word is difficult. We are complex beings and display many different emotions and responses to life. To capture the essence of a fellow human being we need a variety of words in the same way an artist needs the full spectrum of colors on a palette to paint a multicolored field of tulips or a sunset over the Rocky Mountains.
How much more difficult to try and capture the heart of Jesus with a single word! We see Him portrayed in the Scriptures in so many different ways. Wise. Powerful. Authoritative. Pure. Gentle. Resolute. The list of accurate one-word descriptions could go on almost indefinitely.
Yet for me, when I think of the character of Christ as displayed in the gospels one word rises above the rest.
In so many different situations and settings, the response of the Savior to the plight and struggle of broken people living in a broken world was that of compassion. Let’s explore that important idea together. As we begin, it’s good to answer a simple question: What is compassion?