The Hebrew faith was very physical. Unlike the ancient Greeks, they saw every part of a person as having some connection to their body. The heart is the centre of your emotions and desires. Your spirit is your breath, or the wind. Your soul is your throat. People who bring good news have beautiful feet. Your life is in your blood.
When Jesus was moved with compassion he wasn’t merely sympathetic for people, he was gutted. Really gutted.
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
The Greek word they used meaning ‘moved with compassion’ is esplanchnisthē, to be moved in the splanxna, the inward parts.
It strikes me there are two emotions we usually associate with the guts: love, as fluttering butterflies in the tummy, and disgust. Maybe when these two gut feelings come together, that’s what we call compassion. When you feel a deep love for someone but see them in a sickening situation, these combine and compel you to action, and that’s what we call compassion.
Compassion is painful because it’s the art of feeling another person’s pain and entering into it. I’m better at writing about compassion than being compassionate, so I’m preaching to myself here.
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.”
Discipleship is apprenticeship. Jesus was gutted with compassion, so urged his apprentices to pray with the same gut earnestness for the helpless crowds.
For Christ’s love compels us
(2 Corinthians 5:14)
So, pray with earnestness. Christ’s love compels us.
There’s something about prayer. When we pray, we connect with God’s heart. What moves His heart moves ours. He loves the world deeply, and because of that He’s deeply disgusted at the mess that assails us. In Jesus, God wades into the piss and the crud, and invites us to follow Him incarnating His hands and feet in this fallen world.
What’s more, as we act with God’s heart we come face to face with God in the guise of His image-bearing and broken children.
May I, and may you, be filled with the Spirit until His love compels us.
This little story moved me to tears: