“Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous.”
having compassion for one another;
Peter proceeds to describe four characteristics of the “one mind.” First, Christians with “one mind” have compassion for others who are under duress. Christians with mental stability can think for others who cannot think under duress.
“Compassion” comes from two words to be affected and with. “Compassion” then means to suffer with someone else, to be affected in like manner. This carries the idea of fellow-identity. This is the interchange of fellow-identity. We get our English word “sympathy” from this Greek word, but the idea is closer to our word “empathy.” Empathy is participation in the destiny of others in all situations.
Empathy is not pity. Sympathy simply feels for someone else. Empathy attempts to identify with the other’s needs and meet them. God wants Christians to identify with fellow Christians in sadness or joy (Ro 12:10,15). Empathy is not feeling sorry for someone but doing something to help them.
He 4:15, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
Jesus can be touched. He is compassionate, a compassionate High Priest.
He 10:34, “For you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.”
The idea of this verse is, “You had compassion on me while I was in jail.”
Ro 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”
God desires that Christians who suffered duress should express empathy toward those who are currently suffering. God does not want Christians to go through life oblivious to the needs of others. He wants us to enter their experiences.
The Greeks used this word for the harmony of celestial bodies. All bodies of heaven appear to operate with each other. They all orb with regard to one another. God expects Christians to orb with other Christians. He does not want isolation. When Christians hurt one another, they want to withdraw from one another, but God wants us to weep with those who weep.
Empathy and selfishness cannot co-exist.
God expects us to take the viewpoint of people who suffer. This is empathy as over against sympathy. Do you identify with what someone else is going through? Have you ever participated fully in the pain of someone else?
People who lack empathy are correspondingly rigid in their dealings with people. They are usually indifferent and inhibited in their relationships. They keep to themselves because they find it difficult to participle in the responses of others. They do not make friends easily. Their social relationships are limited and formal. They cannot give themselves to another because they cannot put themselves in their place.
So long as the self is the most important thing to us, there can be no such thing as empathy. Empathy depends on a willingness to forget the self. God expects us to step outside ourselves and identify with the suffering of others. Empathy comes to our hearts when Christ reigns within our hearts.
In music, harmony occurs when cords vibrate together. Do you vibrate with other Christians? Are you on the same cord? Do you have an affinity of heart with others in the kingdom? Compassion is two hearts tugging at one load.
It is because we love God’s people that their misfortune, sickness, accident, or surgery affects us. We are concerned that they have come upon evil days. We can identify with their tribulations and reverses. Our first impetus is, “I wonder if I can be of any help to them. Maybe I can get under their load during this time of trial.” This is part of our responsibility to fellow Christians.
We belong to the same spiritual family. We belong to each other. We should tell those we love that we love them before they end in the casket. It is very difficult for our loved ones to hear us when they are in the coffin. Why not throw verbal bouquets to them now while they can appreciate it? We think of this when Mother’s Day comes around. “I am going to tell my mother how much I appreciate her,” but she dies before Mother’s Day. After her death, you say, “Oh, what a wonderful mother I had.” Why not tell her now?
Some folk have a love for souls but have no love for God’s people. This is inconsistent. They feel no responsibility to people in the local church. They think that their only responsibility is to get the gospel out. They are half right and half wrong. Who wants to be 50% right? The same epistle that says “I am debtor” to the lost also says, “own no man anything but love one another.”
“I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. 15So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also” (Ro 1:14-16).
Paul says in effect, “I owe the lost something. I owe them the gospel.”
Ro 13:8 “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.”
We owe something to the saints.