Saturday, June 4, 2016

Sympathy and Empathy

Did you know that the Bible condemns the practice of sympathy?

15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

Yes, showing sympathy to someone's plight is all too common in our culture and even in the church. We wish people well, we send condolences, we are sorry for someone's unfortunate circumstance, but we never do anything about it!

Jesus never called us to be sympathetic. He called us to be empathetic. It was something He practiced all the time during His ministry. 

So what's the difference? How is sympathy different from empathy? Well, from what I have seen, sympathy is where you think understand how someone feels and you want them to feel better and you might even express that wish for them. Empathy, on the other hand, involves spending time with those afflicted or aggrieved or injured or marginalized in some way and then using what you have to help make their situation better.

Think about the story of the Good Samaritan, You all know it. A man is injured along the road, badly beaten and robbed. Two religious types, a priest and a Levite, pass him on the other side of the road. They do not help. They may have been sympathetic to his plight, but they had to be somewhere and also, they had to maintain ceremonial cleanliness as a requirement of their occupation. If they were made unclean by this man's blood, they would not be able to serve at the altar. They forgot that God prefers mercy to sacrifice (Hosea 6:6 I think).

However, a Samaritan passer by saw the man and his sympathy for the beaten and robbed man, turned into action. He gave medical attention to the man's wounds and paid to put him up in an inn until he was able to travel again. The story goes on from there, but this is a prime example of empathy and I will tell you why.

The Samaritan knew what it was to be looked down on, ignored, despised and feared. He knew the pain of the man that lay by the road and it drove him to act. He did not do this to be honored or rewarded or to receive public accolades. He did it because he cared - he had empathy.

Many times we church folks have a lot of sympathy for the plight of others. We see their need, we welcome them and then we fail to give them what they need to become a successful part of the body of Christ. We do not give of what we have to see to their needs in their time of trouble. We do a fair job of seeing to people's physical needs, but oft times we do not help with their spiritual needs because we find who they are to be distasteful for whatever reason. We welcome them, but then say, "you're on your own". We may not use those words, but our lack of action to help the spiritually injured says that in spades.  

Many of us are blessed with spiritual wisdom and biblical knowledge that could help our less fortunate brethren. We have spiritual privilege. Those privileges should be used to help others, but instead we ignore the problems or offer sympathy and no empathy. 

The world is full of people that need to hear what Jesus has to offer. Even so, we guard that information inside of spiritual fortresses in suburbia where we meet. We do not reach out to help. We might bring them in, but we do not give answers. Instead, we offer a smile, a welcome and polite conversation about lawnmowers and lunch with the mother in law over a latte a the church coffee shop.     

Is this what Jesus called us to? Just wondering.

CHRISTIANS: 4 tips for talking to your gay friends


I do not know any other name for it. It's that thing where you look at your phone or your digital clock and it says 11:11 or 12:12 or 1:11 or 2:22 or 3:33 or 4:44 or 5:55. Repeating numbers, every time I check the time.

It's been happening to me with alarming frequency. Now some will say, "well, you just remember that because it's odd. You don't remember all those other times you checked the time because it was not unusual."

That would be called confirmation bias, or more technically, the Van Restorff Effect.

Maybe, but I do not think so.

There seems to be something almost spiritual about it. It happens at home and it happens at work. At home I have an alarm clock that projects the time on the ceiling. I woke up the other night to see 3:33 projected on the ceiling in big red letters. I've also seen 4:44. At work, I usually get 11:11. It's just weird.

Does this happen to anyone else? Is it just a temporal anomaly? It's just very odd.

Feel The Everlasting Power of The Word of God

There is no commentary required here. Read these words my brethren and know the power of our Lord and Savior. Do we need anything more than Him? I love you! See you soon.

Philippians 4:4-9

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Ephesians 3:14-21

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.