and no, i have no idea how to pronounce that. :)
It's a Koine Greek word that means "compassion." And it's used in Matthew 14 like this:
"When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick."
It's incredible when you think about it. Jesus' cousin John, the man God had sent as "the voice crying in the wilderness" to "prepare the way of the Lord" - had just been beheaded. And Matthew tells us that when Jesus heard about it, "He withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place." The Bible doesn't tell us what Jesus thought or what He said, but it tells us what He did - and I think it's a safe bet to infer that He probably experienced quite the range of emotions that day. He needed to be alone... and yet the crowds were still there. They found out where He was and they followed Him. And He had compassion on them. Chances are good He was in a world of hurt that day - but He stepped out of it to minister to others, putting off His own need for retreat and not dealing with His own hurt until later in the evening.
If that isn't a picture of self-sacrificial love, I don't know what is.
Joanna Weaver says, "...Jesus didn't respond to people out of duty; He ministered to them because He felt their distress...He laid aside His hurt so He could pick up their pain. He laid aside His wishes so He could become their one Desire. He laid aside His agenda so He could meet all of their needs. And that is the essence of ministry that goes out of its way. It puts self aside and reaches out in true compassion."*
I need to learn splagchnizomai. I need to learn a compassion that comes from so deep within me that it can't help but rise up and get to work on behalf of others, regardless of what's happening in my own life. I need to learn that other-focused love that automatically views the needs of others as so much more critical than my own. I need humility, honestly, and I need my pride to suffer.
In our devotional time before church tonight, our text was Micah 6:8, and as our director talked about what it means to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God, I was incredibly convicted. Loving mercy means that even when someone doesn't deserve mercy, you still extend it. Mercy can't be deserved - it exists because it's needed... and it cannot be earned. It's a gift of grace. And a humble heart before the Lord loves to love as He loves... which involves, at times, great personal cost. A complete lack of return on the investment.
How often do I love someone only because I expect that love to be returned? How often do I invest in a relationship simply because I think there's something in it for me? And I hope in asking those questions I am not berating myself for selfishness and failure, but rather just looking at my heart with sober judgment and realizing that there are times when my motivations are simply wrong. Times when I've tried to control people (consciously or subconsciously) in an effort to make things turn out the way I want them to. Times when I've been too focused on my own pain to see someone else's. Times when I've been so caught up in my own agenda that I've missed opportunities to speak life and light into others' lives - and missed God's agenda for me entirely....
Except there's grace. And foreknowledge. And mercy. And His agenda continues to be making me more like Him. Because when He looks at me, He looks at me with splagchnizomai.
*Having A Mary Heart In A Martha World, by Joanna Weaver, p. 91