Verbs That Make All the Difference in the World: Splagchnizomai
"So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him."
Splagchnizomai...now there’s a verb for you! You can impress your friends simply by saying it. The Greek pronunciation is something like: splawnk-NITZ-oh-my. Splagchnizomai is one of the verbs that appear in Luke 15:20, one of those which can make all the difference in the world.
In the NLT translation of Luke 15:20, splagchnizomai is translated as “filled with love and compassion.” This accurately renders the sense of the Greek verb. It is based on the Greek noun splagchna (SPLANK-nah), which means “internal organs” or “entrails.” Among speakers of first-century Greek, human emotions were thought to exist in the gut, whereas, in English, we speak of the heart as the home of our feelings. I wouldn’t recommend you tell your beloved: “I love you with all of my intestines.” But this would work if you know anyone whose first language is Koine Greek.
As Jesus narrates the story of the lost son returning home, first, the father sees his son while he is still far away, suggesting the father’s longing for his son’s return. When he sees him, the father feels deep love and compassion for his son. According to Jesus, this portrays the way God sees us in our lostness. The compassion of God does not deny his just anger over our sin. Yet the God who judges our sin is the same God whose heart is moved by our sinful, lost condition.
The verb splagchnizomai is relatively uncommon in the New Testament. When it is used by a biblical writer, it usually describes the emotions of Jesus (8 out of 12 New Testament uses). In Luke 7:13, for example, when Jesus saw a woman mourning over her dead son, “his heart overflowed with compassion.” Thus, Jesus incarnates and exemplifies the compassion of God, making real what he so profoundly illustrates in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The triune God, the God who became human in Jesus, not only acts with grace, but also feels compassion for the lost...including you.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you ever think of God as having feelings for you? If not, why not? If so, which feelings do you tend to attribute to God? Do you believe that God is “filled with love and compassion” for you? If you really believed this, how might it impact your relationship with God? How might it impact your relationships with others?
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank you for this amazing story of the prodigal son. And thank you for the stunning picture of the father, who felt love and compassion for his son.
Thank you, Heavenly Father, for feeling such love and compassion for me. Thank you for caring deeply for me, not only when I am walking with you, but even and especially when I have wandered away from you. May your love and compassion draw me to yourself. May it transform me, inside and out. And may I become like you in the way I relate to others. Amen.