AGAPE relationships are “Compassionate” relationships.

Compassion: to feel with and for another; empathy; to be aware of and want to alleviate the sufferings of another; to identify closely with another’s condition; a concern for others’ needs without regard to merit.

The willingness to “put yourself in another’s shoes,” to “see from their perspective,” and to “treat others as you want to be treated” is a necessary part of AGAPE love. The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:30-37) is a great example of compassionate AGAPE: the Samaritan had it, the Priest and the Levite did not. The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats is another powerful example of this sort of love: “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in …” (Mt 25:31-46). The cross of Christ is the best example of this unconditional, undeserved love: “Christ died for the ungodly” (Ro 5:6).

Christians, having been freed from the tyranny of self absorption, are free to notice how others experience the world. No longer are we limited by our selfish perspectives, our personal perceptions, or our individual experiences. We can adopt different points of view. Thus, though we may never have been truly hungry, we feel the pain of the hungry; though never the object of prejudice or injustice, we identify with people who are victimized by such evils.

But compassion is more than perspective; it must result in deeds appropriate to the perspective. It is more than understanding and kind words and comforting sentiments; it is behavior provoked by the new understanding and intended to address it. “If someone says, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about your physical needs, what good is it?” (Jas 2:16).

The North Central Church wants for foster compassionate love. We encourage empathetic, self-giving, healing relationships in every sphere. Healthy relationships grow out of AGAPE love. And a commitment to compassion is a necessary ingredient for that kind of love.

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© 2012 by Tim Woodroof. Reproduction of this material requires permission from the author.