The final element necessary for authentic compassion is the capacity to identify truly with the object of one’s compassion. This is sometimes called bonding. In this connection, it is interesting to note that the Latin root of “compassion” and the Greek root of “sympathy” are parallel in that they both refer to deep feelings “with” or “alongside” another. Genuine compassion, then, is able to identify, empathize, or bond with the object of its compassion. This is exactly what God did in Jesus of Nazareth. As God became man and dwelt among us, He so identified with us that He bore our grief and carried upon Himself our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4a). In fact, in Jesus, God so clearly bonded with those He came to save that some who saw Him hanging on the cross mistakenly thought he was just a man who was being “smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4b). Nevertheless, Jesus was never just a man. In the person of Jesus, He was both fully man and fully God. When he suffered “with,” “alongside,” and “for” man, He did so not just as a man, but as God. When He experienced death, He did so not just as a man, but as God (Acts 20:28). Even so, Jesus was fully man and, as such, was in all points “tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). This means that He was no Pentagon chief far removed from the battlefield. Instead, He experienced the warfare firsthand. He shared the foxholes, He knew the risks, and He even bore the scars of the battle in His body. Therefore, the Captain of our salvation (Heb. 2:10) and great High Priest (Heb. 4:14) is totally able to “sympathize with our weaknesses” (Heb. 4:15) and aid those of us who are tempted (Heb. 2:18).
Re: The God With Wounds
No other God has wounds. It was the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 and elsewhere, God in the flesh, who laid down His life for us so that we, through obedience to Him, might have eternal life. The cry that pierced the darkness of history’s blackest day, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?,” was the voice not just of a man, but of Immanuel, or “God with us.” We do not fully understand it, but, by faith, we know it’s true. In fact, we are emboldened to trust Jesus like we do because of His willingness to come into this world and so fully identify with us. In the life of our magnificent Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we see all the warm compassion of a God who has so unashamedly proved His love for us.
Touched by our Lord’s compassion and moved by His love, we “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). Touched by His compassion and moved by His love, we are determined to “let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind [we are ready to] esteem others better than [ourselves]” (Php. 2:3). Touched by His compassion and moved by His love, we are willing to “look out not only for our own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Php. 2:4). Finally, touched by His compassion and moved by His love, we reach out to the weak, the hurting, and the downtrodden with compassion and love.