Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous1 Peter 3:8 NKJV
This week I got stuck on the word “compassion” used by Peter in this last verse. It’s different than the one usually translated “compassion’” The Greek word that Peter used here is only found in two other places in the New Testament. One is in Hebrews 10:34 where the NLT says, “You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail.” The point is that they felt the same pain. The Greek word is “sunpathes,” meaning to feel or suffer together with another. In this context he is praising them for enduring the same persecutions as those who endured imprisonment, joyfully sharing in their suffering.
The other place this word is used is in Hebrews 4:15 where the King James renders it, “be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” Again, it has to do with feeling someone’s pain. It’s not sympathy in the sense of feeling sorry for someone, it’s empathy in the sense of stepping onto their space and feeling with them. This is the message of Paul in Philippians, “ Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:5-7 NKJV)”
Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, has the capacity to feel our weakness because He faced the same temptations. He put Himself in our shoes and bore our pain. The result is that we have confidence in coming to Him for help. We know He will be merciful and give us help in time of need. Paul and Peter both suggest that we should have this same attitude toward one another. Can you imagine a local church where the people extend mercy and grace to fellow believers, putting themselves in their shoes, walking with them in their battles, and carrying their needs to the throne as if they were their own? I can. Let’s go be Church!