Holy Everything: Be moved by a deeper sense of compassion

We grieve. We grieve with our whole selves: mind, body, and spirit.

Our hearts ache with the reality that we live in a world where there is horrific violence. We long for a solution to the hatred and fear and brokenness we witness. We feel the heaviness of it all, and we feel it deep inside the marrow of our bones.

The feeling of it all is important. We can't skip this step.

The most profound solutions to the biggest quandries of life are uncovered as we weave together this collective web of compassion, grief and love.

Jesus mentions this emotional state in the Bible. It's gut-rooted compassion. It's not a surface-level emotion. Instead, it's a kind of response that's rooted way down deep. The original Greek word used to describe this feeling in the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke is splagchnizomai. It comes from the root word splachna, which means "inward parts."


In the Gospel of Luke, the word is used three times. In Luke, chapter 7, Jesus sees a widow whose only son has just died. It's the middle of a funeral profession, and the whole town is walking with the woman. They're all headed out of town to the tombs to bury the son's body. When Jesus sees her, he is moved with splagchnizomai. Whenever Jesus feels this feeling, he's moved to action. Jesus raises the young man back to life, and reunites him with his mother.

The word shows up again in Luke, chapter 10, in describing the actions of the Good Samaritan. In the story, a man ends up robbed and wounded on the side of the road. Everybody walks by and refuses to help him. But then a Samaritan feels splachnizomai. Like Jesus, he, too, is moved to action. He bandages the wounded person, finds him some shelter, and takes care of him through the night.

The third time the word is used in Luke shows up in chapter 15. It's the story of a runaway son. There are two brothers. The younger of the two is footloose and fancy free. In typical first-born fashion, the older one tends to play by the rules. The younger son hits the road with dad's money as soon as he can.

Things don't go real well for the kid. In fact, they go terribly and he ends up living in a pigpen without a dime. The son decides he'll go back and beg for Dad's forgiveness.

As soon as the father catches a glimpse of his son in the distance, way before the kid could even say one word of apology, the dad feels splachnizomai. He doesn't feel judgment or resentment. He instead feels compassion for his confused, misdirected child, and he feels it in his guts.

Like Jesus and the Samaritan, the dad is also moved to action. He throws a party to welcome his son home. It's a huge celebration — big and fancy and over the top. Splachnizomai sometimes inspires that level of emotional response. When the feeling strikes, it moves people toward unabashed compassion.

There are times in life when it's certainly appropriate to be more temperate with our feelings. But there are also times when big, gut-rooted compassion is necessary. There are occasions upon which we experience and witness things that we can't help but feel with our whole selves.

We are living in such a time as this.


I am convinced that any long-lasting solution will not come from hate, retribution, anger, or fear. It will come from a different place inside. It will come from the compassionate core of all our inward parts working together.

Compassion unfurled on the world is an utterly powerful force. It is through splachnizomai that the grieving find hope, the wounded are healed, and the lost are welcomed home.

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