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by Scott Wylie

Understanding, often referred to as "compassion" or "empathy," is a foundational biblical characteristic that lies at the heart of Christian living. It involves the ability to comprehend the feelings, perspectives, and needs of others while demonstrating care and empathy. Throughout the Bible, God calls His people to be understanding and compassionate, reflecting His own character of love and understanding toward humanity.

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Infographic on the Biblical characteristic of Guidance

Key Passages on Understanding

  1. Proverbs 3:3 (ESV): "Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart." Understanding and compassion are rooted in steadfast love and faithfulness, which should be etched into the very core of a believer's being.
  2. 1 Peter 3:8 (ESV): "Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind." These qualities, including sympathy and a tender heart, are central to understanding and building harmonious relationships within the Christian community.
  3. Colossians 3:12 (ESV): "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience." Understanding is linked to compassion, kindness, and humility, all of which are traits expected of God's chosen people.

Cultivate Understanding

Tips for Practicing Understanding According to the Bible:

  1. Prayer: Seek God's guidance in developing a compassionate heart. Pray for the ability to understand and empathize with others' experiences and emotions.
  2. Study Scripture: Regularly engage with the Bible to gain insight into God's heart of understanding. Study passages that emphasize compassion, empathy, and the importance of loving one another.
  3. Listen Actively: James 1:19 advises, "Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger." Practice active listening when engaging with others, truly seeking to understand their thoughts and feelings before responding.
  4. Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Philippians 2:4 encourages believers to "look not only to [their] own interests, but also to the interests of others." Try to understand situations from the perspective of others, considering their needs and feelings.
  5. Practice Forgiveness: Forgiveness is a crucial aspect of understanding. Ephesians 4:32 reminds us to "be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."
  6. Avoid Judging: Jesus cautioned against judging others in Matthew 7:1-2. Instead of passing judgment, strive to understand the struggles and challenges people face.
  7. Seek Common Ground: Romans 12:16 encourages believers to "live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight." Find common ground and build bridges of understanding with others.
  8. Practice Patience: Understanding often requires patience. Proverbs 14:29 states, "Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding." Cultivate patience in your interactions.
  9. Express Compassion: Show empathy and compassion in practical ways. Galatians 6:2 instructs believers to "bear one another's burdens," exemplifying the spirit of understanding.
  10. Reflect Christ's Love: Ultimately, understanding is a reflection of Christ's love for us. 1 John 4:7-8 reminds us, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God."

In conclusion, the biblical characteristic of understanding is rooted in the love and compassion that God has shown us through Christ. By practicing active listening, empathy, forgiveness, and patience, and by seeking common ground and expressing compassion, Christians can embody this virtue in their interactions with others. Understanding is not merely a human trait but a divine one, reflecting the very nature of God and His love for His creation. As believers strive to be more understanding, they bring glory to God and build stronger, more loving communities within the body of Christ.

Prayer and Reading Guide for Pursuing Understanding

Here are ten things Christians could pray for to help them develop the biblical concept of understanding, along with a corresponding Bible verse from the English Standard Version (ESV) for each one:

  1. Pray for a Compassionate Heart: 
    Verse: "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience." - Colossians 3:12
  2. Pray for Wisdom in Understanding: 
    Verse: "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." - James 1:5
  3. Pray for Empathy Toward Others: 
    Verse: "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." - Romans 12:15
  4. Pray for the Ability to Listen Actively: 
    Verse: "Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger." - James 1:19
  5. Pray for Patience in Understanding: 
    Verse: "Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly." - Proverbs 14:29
  6. Pray for a Humble Heart: 
    Verse: "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." - Philippians 2:3
  7. Pray for the Grace to Forgive: 
    Verse: "bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive." - Colossians 3:13
  8. Pray for Wisdom in Speech: 
    Verse: "Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person." - Colossians 4:6
  9. Pray for the Spirit of Unity: 
    Verse: "Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind." - Philippians 2:2
  10. Pray for a Heart That Reflects Christ's Love: 
    Verse: "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God." - 1 John 4:7

In prayer, Christians can seek God's guidance and transformation to develop a deeper understanding of others and to reflect the love and compassion of Christ in their interactions with fellow believers and the world.

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