Tim Clinton, Ed.D
Tucked in the midst of the 50 verses of Luke chapter 7, we find 5 verses that give us great insight into the heart of Jesus. As He approaches a little town called Nain, a funeral procession is just coming out of the gate of the city. A man has died. Luke is careful to point out that the man was the “only son of his mother”. As a widow, the death of her only son relegated her to a life of poverty and degradation. Sounds of her deep bewailing brought tears to the eyes of all who heard. A considerable crowd from the town is with her. Just as the cemetery comes into view, she meets Jesus. “And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her…” (vs. 13 ESV)
“Splagchnizomai” the Greek word for compassion literally means “to be moved as to one’s bowels” (for the bowels were thought to be the seat of love and pity). Henri J. M. Nouwen asserts that (Jesus) felt the pain of that woman in His guts. It is interesting that this deep empathy drew out of Jesus a much higher level of response than anyone expected — as well as the desire to meet the real need of the widow… “and (He) said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ Then He came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, Arise.’ And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.” (vs. 13-15 ESV)
Nearly every day, God places someone in our life who is consumed with deep pain. A friend whose dad has died. A couple who have tragically abandoned their marriage. The teenage girl — pregnant, scared and confused. A mom and dad whose son or daughter has been killed in the line of duty. Someone’s daughter attempted suicide. Too often, we are so busy and preoccupied that we trivialize another’s pain. We are aware, but not touched. Even our own pain is masked and dismissed.
Christlike compassion sees beyond the surface and begs for a truly empathetic “from the bowels” response. Could Jesus have seen the widow and merely walked by? I think not. His very nature compelled Him to go beyond the “expected” and to fulfill “the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” (James 5:11 ESV) I believe that God has no greater plan than to use His people as His ambassadors of compassion and mercy.
Let’s slow down and really pay attention to those who are “in our way”. Next time, look beyond what is apparent to see the real need. Offer the compassion of Jesus. Lives will be turned around. Not just theirs… but yours as well.
Tim Clinton, Ed.D., LPC, LMFT (The College of William and Mary) is President of the nearly 50,000-member American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), the largest and most diverse Christian counseling association in the world. He is Professor of Counseling and Pastoral Care, and Executive Director of the Center for Counseling and Family Studies at Liberty University. Licensed in Virginia as both a Professional Counselor and Marriage and Family Therapist, Tim now spends a majority of his time working with Christian leaders and professional athletes. He is recognized as a world leader in faith and mental health issues and has authored over 20 books including Breakthrough: When to Give In, When to Push Back. Most importantly, Tim has been married 36 years to his wife Julie and together they have two children, Megan, who is married to Ben Allison and is practicing medicine in dermatology, and Zach, who plays baseball at Liberty University. In his free time, you’ll find him outdoors or at a game with family and friends.