The book of Philippians is a letter the apostle Paul sent to a congregation he had started less than a year earlier. Years ago I was struck by the similarity between our church and the Philippian congregation. I became intrigued by Paul’s statement that he had “the affection of Christ Jesus” for the Philippian people.
I wanted that kind of emotion for the people in my church and community, so I did some further study on the word affection. I found that affection in that passage comes from the Greek word splanchna, which means “guts.” Many times it was also translated “compassion.” In the Bible splanchna is used literally to describe the inner parts of the chest cavity, such as the heart, lungs, and blood vessels, but it is also used figuratively to describe the overwhelming compassion someone feels towards another person in need. When I watch a sad movie, my jaw tightens, my chest constricts, I get a lump in my throat, my eyes water, my heart races. That’s splanchna, an overwhelming feeling of compassion for another person.
Paul, however, went one step further and said that he had Jesus’ affection and compassion for people, which led me to look up how the Bible uses splanchna in descriptions of the ministry of Jesus. I discovered that Jesus felt compassion for just about everyone he met:
“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion [splanchna] on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34).
When Jesus saw a woman who had lost both her husband and only son, “his heart went out to her [splanchna] and he said, “Don’t cry’” (Luke 7:13).
In the story of the good Samaritan, Jesus said, “But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity [splanchna] on him” (Luke 10:33).
And in probably the most famous example, the story of the prodigal son, Jesus said, “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion [splanchna] for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).
After I finished reading these verses in the original Greek, I lifted up my head and said out loud, “That’s exactly what I was feeling at Parkside Homes.” I felt splanchna for those people.
This was one of those eureka moments in my spiritual journey. I realized that feeling in my heart wasn’t an accident. Something was happening inside me spiritually. I bowed my head and prayed, “Jesus, please give me the same affection for people that you have.”
This became my constant prayer. I would talk to someone in the hallway and say to myself, Jesus, give me your heart for this person. In fact, I probably prayed that prayer a dozen times a day, and I still do. Whenever I’m with someone in need, I always ask Jesus to give me his compassion for that person. I want to feel what he feels for that person. I want his heart, his emotions, his mind, and his love for everyone I meet.
Whatever circumstances you are facing right now, I want to encourage you to begin praying that prayer as well. While you are pumping gas, ask Jesus to give you his heart for the person monitoring the pumps. As you’re walking by your neighbor’s house, pray that Jesus would give you his heart for your neighbor and his kids. Every time you go to church or your child’s school or walk into the cafeteria at work, pray for the compassion of Jesus. When you do, two amazing things begin to happen.
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