Empathy, anyone?

He revealed that when he took pictures of Putin, he found the man spoke ‘perfect English’ and was a fan of the Beatles.  Who knew?  In Trump, he found an anxious man who made the assertion, “I am the storm.”  That is no surprise.  Platon insists that the world can survive if we see the people with whom with share the planet, beyond their politics, religion, or culture.

When we turn others into objects, when we generalize and stereotype, we lose sight of their humanity and lose the capacity for compassion. When we take time to hear and see the person, the ‘what’ of their life begins to meld with the ‘why’ giving us the ability to empathize. That does not necessarily excuse evil, but it may help us to figure out better ways to deal with it. For example, the little humanizing knowledge about Putin’s love of the Beatles does not justify his brutality or war, but his revelation of his favorite Beatles song, “Yesterday,” gives some sense of his longing for the lost Soviet empire.

Jesus takes that idea of empathy and extends it to love!
When asked the greatest commandment “Jesus replied: ”‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-40, NIV)  

I take good care of ME and if you are emotionally healthy you take good care of yourself, too.  We make sure to feed, wash, clothe ourselves. We work at finding security and holding onto it. There’s nothing wrong with that.  However, Jesus says that we are to take the same kind of care of ‘our neighbor,’ which He defined not as those who share our faith or culture, but those who are part of the human race!

When asked by a religious leader, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told the famous story we title The Good Samaritan.  He told of a Jewish man who was left for dead by the side of the road by thieves and robbers. A priest and a religious worker saw him but quickly hurried on, despite sharing his religion and culture. The one who stopped and saved the man’s life was a Samaritan, a man who was considered inferior in every way to the dying man’s own people. Jesus’ point? We share humanity and our race, religion, culture, gender, social status and all those other things that separate us should be no barrier to genuine love!

Our love is more than a response. It is a choice.  He explains the costly decision to love with true empathy.  “Do you think you deserve credit merely for loving those who love you? Even the sinners do that! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, is that so wonderful? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, what good is that? Even sinners will lend to their own kind for a full return. “Love your enemies! Do good to them! Lend to them! And don’t be concerned that they might not repay.

Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to the unthankful and to those who are wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.” (Luke 6:32-36, NLT)  God goes beyond justice to show mercy. Will we?

Today when you think of that person or that group that makes you feel discomfort or for whom you have contempt, pray for a new heart, one that looks for the ‘why,’ that feels empathy for the person, perhaps not because of, but rather in spite of, their actions. Pray for a love for others like that of our Father in Heaven who loves us deeply, persistently, and redemptively.

The word from the Word invites a true empathetic response in a hurting world. “If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both.” (1 John 4:20-21, The Message)  Help us, Lord!

(Video of this blog at this link)


The Servant Song

Brother let me be your servant
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I might have the grace to
Let you be my servant too

We are pilgrims on a journey
We are brothers on the road
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load

I will hold the Christ-light for you
In the night time of your fear
I will hold my hand out to you
Speak the peace you long to hear

I will weep when you are weeping
When you laugh I’ll laugh with you
I will share your joy and sorrow
Till we’ve seen this journey through

When we sing to God in heaven
We shall find such harmony
Born of all we’ve known together
Of Christ’s love and agony

Brother sister let me serve you
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I may have the grace to
Let you be my servant too

Richard Gillard

© Words: 1977 Universal Music – Brentwood Benson Publishing (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.)

Music: 1977 Universal Music – Brentwood Benson Publishing (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.)

CCLI License # 810055

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