Jonathan Martin on Compassion


‘Here Job is, the portrait of a man undone, and all he wants now is the consolation and empathy of his friends. But Job’s friends are precisely the kind of friends we often are if we have not suffered – they are more interested in explaining Job’s plight to him than sitting with him in it. They are incapable of the compassion that would demand them to suffer with Job, to suffer alongside him.’

– Jonathan Martin, How to Survive A Shipwreck

Read my review of How to Survive A Shipwreck.


Compassion is the thing that stands out from Jesus’ parable about The Good Samaritan. I’m not surprised Jesus told a story about compassion. It was central to his ministry. Compassion literally means “to suffer with.” It’s taken from the Latin ‘com’ meaning with, and ‘passion,’ suffering.

But did the Samaritan suffer? Yes, but not in the sense that he felt the same pain as the man who had been robbed and beaten. The Samaritan put his life on hold. He crossed a racial boundary. He sought out medical help and paid for the hurt man to recover. He offered care to an innocent victim who had been rejected by others. And he expected nothing in return. This is compassion.

But what about Jesus? How does he show compassion? You could look at how he treated others – he healed the sick, placed value on women and children, and did not reject those who had been rejected by the religious elite. These all display Jesus’ compassion.

But it is better to consider how he personified it. In the incarnation, where Jesus became human, he embodied compassion. He literally joined with us in our suffering. Even more so, he took our suffering upon himself at the Cross. All you need do to know what compassion is like is look to Jesus.

But what about us as followers of Jesus? How do our lives display compassion? Jonathan Martin’s words are helpful. You show compassion when you sit with the hurting and the broken and simply be there. Don’t speak, just be there. And help carry their burdens to Jesus.

What does the word compassion mean to you? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.

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