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What Is Compassion?

The Hebrew and Greek words translated “compassion” in the Bible mean “to have mercy, to feel sympathy and to have pity.” We know that, according to the Bible, God is “full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth” (Psalm 86:15). Like all of God’s attributes, His compassion is infinite and eternal. “His compassions fail not. They are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22–23).

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, exemplified all of the Father’s attributes, including His compassion. When Jesus saw His friends weeping at the grave of Lazarus, He felt compassion for them and wept alongside them (John 11:33–35). Moved with compassion for the suffering of others, Jesus healed the large crowds who came to Him (Matthew 14:14), as well as individuals who sought His healing (Mark 1:40–41). When He saw the large crowds as sheep without a shepherd, His compassion led Him to teach them the things the false shepherds of Israel had abandoned. The priests and scribes were proud and corrupt. They despised the common people and neglected them, but Jesus had compassion on them, and He taught and loved them.

When asked what was the greatest commandment, Jesus responded that it is to love God with all our heart, mind and strength. But He added that the second commandment “is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:34–40). Jesus stated not only what we are to do, but also how to do it. To love our neighbor as ourselves is the natural result and confirmation of our loving devotion toward God.

1 John 3:17 asks, “Whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” Originally made in His image, man is to exemplify God’s traits, including compassion. From this it follows that “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 John 4:20). The Bible is clear that compassion is an attribute of God and of God’s people as well.

—GotQuestions.org