Christian Empathy

Romans 12:15 NET - Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

1 Corinthians 12:25-27 NLT - This makes for harmony among the members [of Christ’s Church], so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. 27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.  In some hard cases, people may reject the encouragement of those who have not gone through similar situations.  “You just don’t understand!”  Interestingly, the desire for someone who “gets it” can be healing even if they don’t have any advice or insights.  Just the presence and concern of someone who “understands what I’m feeling” is often a ministry in itself.  Maybe no miracles occur, but there is someone who “knows how I feel.”  This is why pain is never wasted in the life of a Christian.  Trials and traumas are building blocks for a ministry of empathy toward one another. However, in order to unleash the benefits of empathy, you often need to become vulnerable about the griefs and pains that helped shape your empathy.  The details may be embarrassing or shocking.  They should never be used to glorify sin or embarrass others unless they’ve given permission to share.  But to minister Christian empathy, it often requires that we give up any mask of “having always had it all together”.  It may require admitting faults or sins that caused our pain and grief.  Or it may require cautious sharing of mental struggles and torment if emotional doubts or anger with God accompanied your past pain.  In some cases, we may even avoid ministering empathy to others because we don’t want to be reminded of past pain.  Yet the example of Christ and His Apostles were that of wounded healers and suffering servants.  Finally, consider the Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12. Temptations regarding pride, jealousy, religious legalism, selfishness, embarrassment, fear, and cruelty may be the main obstacles to our ability to empathize with others’ sufferings and celebrating with their successes.  Simply ask yourself, “If I were rejoicing over great news, how would I want others to respond?”  Also, “If I were suffering - emotionally, financially, mentally, or physically, how would I want others to respond?”  Rather than evaluating their worthiness to be blessed or their blame for their pain…simply go and do for one another whatever you would want them to do for you.

Matthew 7:12 ESV - So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.