Christians have a responsibility to be empathetic and in doing so, to demonstrate compassion through our thoughts, prayers, and actions.
People often ask me, “Why don’t we see God work miracles like He did in Bible days?” My answer: we do. God is at work in our world every day. We simply need to focus our eyes to see God’s activity all around us. Perhaps the greatest miracle occurs when God transforms sinners into saints. Only God can bring new birth. Paul called us a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Believers’ descriptions of their new birth vary, but they often describe the results of God’s transformation as seeing the world in a whole new way or as loving people as never before.
Loving people in new ways reminds us that this love flows out of God’s love for us. We are reminded in 1 John 4:19 that “We love because He first loved us.” We see this in the accounts of Christ’s disciples, whose love for others flowed out of Jesus’s love. Indeed the Lord challenged them—and us—with these parting words on the night He was betrayed: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34).
The great commandment from the Old Testament instructed us to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and to love other people as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-38). However, Christ’s love command is new because He offered an incredible example of divine love by giving Himself completely on the cross. Our love for others has varied expressions. One is exhibiting empathy. We define empathy as the capacity to identify with other people from their perspectives:
- To put on their shoes.
- To walk their paths.
- To see through their eyes.
- To feel what they feel.
- To experience their needs as our own.
We pray for empathy when we ask to see others through God’s eyes. Christian empathy gives us new windows to see our world as we get out of our skin and step into the skin of another person.
We identify with marginalized individuals and groups. We have a loving perspective as we encounter race relations. We reach out to minister to those who suffer with illness, addiction, the consequences of bad decisions, and emotional distress. We genuinely care about people in need. We love those who hate us and seek to do us wrong, even those who seek in inflict terror on us and our land, wherever we may live in the world.
Christian empathy urges us to break down barriers to those who are culturally or spiritually different from us. We also work to break down barriers among family members, workmates, and even people who worship with us at church by seeking to understand their circumstances. In a world filled with discord, disharmony, and war, we must offer the peace of Jesus Christ.
Christians empathize with people because as recipients of God’s incredible love, we are compelled to share that love. Empathy is not our doing; it is not a learned behavior. Rather, it is a gift from God freely given for the asking and developed as we practice it. Empathy enables us to be ambassadors of the gospel as we demonstrate to the world that God’s love makes a difference in our lives, our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our neighborhoods, and everywhere we interact.
Determine today that you will join with God in the divine mission of loving everyone as Christ has loved us. That’s a divine miracle with eternal benefits.
Frank M. Moore is Editor in Chief of Holiness Today
Holiness Today M/A 2017