“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7, NIV).
One of my sister’s best friends is a psychologist and has spent time conducting a thorough study of compassion in human beings. She has very enthusiastically shared with us the things she’s discovered on the subject. In other versions, Matthew 5:7 uses the word «compassion.» In any case, both adjectives are closely related and are attributes of God’s character, which is very important if we consider it’s something we can also show.
While researching on the origin of the word, as it appears in the gospels, our friend was surprised to notice that the expression used in Matthew 9:36 implies pain or a sensation that is within. Matthew says, «When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd» (NLT).
Jesus felt a physical response to people’s pain.
Several scientific research studies have considered the relationship between compassion with the stimulation of the vagus nerve, the longest cranial nerve. In its trajectory, it innervates several cervical, thoracic and abdominal organs. It’s vitally important to regulate heart frequency and blood pressure, among other functions. Thanks to this nerve we experience a pleasant sensation when someone hugs us and it can also generate a response when facing a situation that moves us to compassion.
What a marvelous connection exists and is set in motion between brain, the heart and the digestive tract when facing something that’s external to our body!
«The heart of man is by nature cold and dark and unloving; whenever one manifests a spirit of mercy and forgiveness, he does it not of himself, but through the influence of the divine Spirit moving upon his heart. ‘We love, because He first loved us’ » (Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, 2, p. 21).
When He created us, God not only loved us, but also installed a mechanism within us to respond to others in various ways. He loves us with deep love, and we can also be moved within when noticing other people’s needs.
Do you remember stories in the Bible where compassion was displayed? Spend some time today reflecting on those examples and thinking of ways in which you can also show compassion.