I’m in awe with apostle Paul’s admonition:

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”  (Romans 12: 5)

Think about it – this was penned some 2000 years ago. That’s a long long time ago. Today we have a term for it – . But the call to empathy as an expression of God’s character has been in the Bible for a long time. Showing empathy to others weeping with others when they weep and mourning with those who mourn sets off an empathy domino effect of sorts. You don’t forget easily when someone shows you empathy. It’s a rare thing turns out. And it help you show empathy when opportunity arises.

Ultimately it goes back to ’ teaching: “So in everything do to others what you would have them do to you for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Mat. 7:1)

THIS sums up the Law and the Prophets? We better pay attention!

I can honestly say that my own journey in empathy began some 26 years ago with experiencing the reality of God’s own burning love and compassion personally for me. It’s a perplexing thing to experience that He has both the power to squash you like an ant and yet at the same time He chooses to love you even like his own child. Even more amazingly as time goes you begin to realize that we humans love our own children because we have been created by Him in his own image and likeness.

I’m quite convinced that “the empathy domino effect” either begins at home in our family as we grow up – or not. In fact we experience empathy before we know what it’s called. It just feels good. But we don’t have a word for i

In fact isn’t it amazing we experience both the most amazing positive emotions as well as the worst possible pain early on in life long before we know by which terms we can explain emotions?

What amazes me in Romans 12: 15 is that it’s a commission. It’s a call.

What I find even more amazing is that the call to empathy from 2000 years ago came to us from a man who was initially known for imprisoning and harassing Christians out of religious zealotry.

Which means that empathy is something all of us are able to receive and to give – otherwise why would Paul commission the believers to “weep with those who weep”? Because it is possible. It’s part of the evidence we know the Lord. We’re able to weep with those who weep.

This thing here is a real call to empathy to real people for real situations in life. (I’m pretty sure it excludes shedding a tear or two while watching an emotional flick).

In fact being “there” for people helping people and empathizing with people is the very essence of what “love” goes by in this world isn’t it? You can make a huge poster and type a verse from the Bible say John 3:16 and go down the street and start shouting and preaching it and no one will pay attention. Why? Because talk is cheap.

The world has heard plenty of talkers talk. What the world needs more of is “doers” – people who actually are there for others empathize with others help others are real with others. That’s it.

The people you touch personally by the love of God are quite possibly the only true “audience” whose honest attention youve ever had or will ever have!

The people you touch personally by the love of God are quite possibly the only true “audience” whose honest attention youve ever had or will ever have!

You can manage to speak about the Lord to many other people at other times but make no mistake the only people whose attention youve ever really had – in a real life changing kind of a way are the people who experienced empathy and from you and because of that opened up in trust to hear what you have to say.

Everything else you can file under “evangelistic crusadering” and God only knows how much crusadering has helped or damaged the work of God in the earth. I have a seems it has mostly brought damage.

Now let’s flip this around and talk about the other side of this call to empathy thing.

While receiving and giving empathy is central to our human experience we can’t turn this into a substitute for God. No matter how good we become at being empathetic to others this doesn’t consummate the totality of what and who we are meant to be.

Let’s just leave semantics and technicalities aside and equate for a moment comfort and empathy. I realize they aren’t exactly the same thing but again let’s not get too picky and let’s bundle empathy with comfort for a moment. C. S. Lewis lays it out masterfully in Mere Christianity:

I quite agree that the Christian religion is in the long run a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it does not begin in comfort; it begins in the dismay I have been describing and it is of no use at all trying to go on to that comfort without first going through the dismay. In religion as in war and everything else comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth you May find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth—only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and in the end despair. Most of us have got over the pre-war wishful thinking about international politics. It is time we did the same about religion.

And again here:

“God is the only comfort He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally and we have made ourselves His enemies. Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again. They are still only playing with religion. Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger – according to the way you react to it. And we have reacted the wrong way.”

Clearly when we begin to obsess with truth while ignoring the call the empathy we’ve missed something very central to who God is and who we are meant to be in life. We May attract some but most people we will scare away.

Likewise to solely pursue comfort it can’t possibly lead us to a good place. Based on the Biblical account God himself has rarely chosen to initially introduce Himself as Comfort – not until the coming of the Holy Spirit The Comforter. And even then The Comforter is called just as much The Spirit of Truth. I find Jesus’ teaching on Comfort and Truth absolutely incredibly brilliant and heart-stopping!

At the end of the day it boils down to the fact we are daily challenged with the call to empathy comfort and love even while we remain true to His truth! And that’s not an easy thing to do in our own strength. In fact this May only be possible if we gave up our own striving to be godly and simply allowed Christ in us to be the Comforter and the Truth whenever and however He chooses.

@reformist

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George

Creator and moderator of www.opensourcechristian.com Instigator in Chief Thought Leader Defiant of Evil Defender of Good