What Manner of Man:

Compassion and Empathy
By Linda and Richard Eyre

Note:  Each week this column provides a short essay on one particular aspect or facet of the Lord’s personality and character.  It is intended that the reader focus on this facet while partaking of the sacrament this Sunday.  (Click here to read full introductory column.) This column has been on haitus for a few weeks while the Eyres were traveling, and Meridian is proud to resume it this week. Review previous columns by going to the What Manner of Man Archive

Just as we cannot think of Beethoven without thinking of music, we cannot think of Christ without thinking of love.  One of the most beautiful elements of Christ’s love was (and is) his compassion and empathy.  He always sacrificed his own needs for the needs of others: he always fed the hungry crowds, he always stayed a little longer.  The awesomeness of his true perfection lies more in the good he never failed to do than in the wrongs he never did.    

One great quality possessed by a great woman we particularly admire is a particular, beautiful, natural, deep-felt compassion for anyone small, or weak, or sick, or poor – an instant empathy, a tear-to-the-eye caring that causes her to reach out, to hold, to help. She is, in this regard, a true “type” of the Savior.  We see everywhere in Christ this compassion, this empathy, this gentleness, this “unto the least of these” attitude that teaches more than words ever could.

Consider Christ’s love for children – a love that held them, and blessed them, and that was “much displeased” when they were mistreated or deliberately kept from him (see Mark 10:13-16).  So tender was his love for little children that it caused him to weep, and so powerful was the same love that it brought down from heaven “angels … in the midst of fire.”

Consider the compassion and love he showed for widows (see Luke 4:25-26, 21:3), for beggars (see Luke 16:20), for the poor or oppressed (see Matthew 11:5; Luke 4:18).  Indeed, it is not Christ’s love for certain categories of people that is so overwhelming; it is his love for all categories of people.    

Where lies complete compassion?  Is it in the love of the poor, the frail, the fatherless? Or is there an even deeper, even stronger compassion in loving the sinner, even when the person hurt by the sin is you?    

Christ loved the ignorant sinner enough to forgive and forget and teach him a better way.  And he loved the willful sinner enough to correct and chasten him with plain, straightforward words.    

Christ’s compassion is so boundless that if we will open ourselves fully to it, it will flow in so deeply that we will run over and drip our compassion into the lives of others.

Enjoy this contemplation this Sunday during the sacrament time, and we will see you here next week to consider another aspect of the Lord’s love … his Magnanimity and Friendship.

2005 Meridian Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.