Blessed Empathy

Romans 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”

Empathy: the dictionary describes this as “the ability to share and understand the feelings of another.” According to Romans 12, this should be a characteristic of the believer in Christ. Those things that bring joy to one believer, should bring joy to other believers, and those things that bring sorrow to one believer should bring sorrow to other believers. It’s because at the deepest core of their beings, the Holy Spirit lives within them. They have the mind and heart of Christ – and that’s what He’s like. On this point, the Bible describes Jesus in this way: “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). This is the King James Version language and I really like its rendering on this verse. In the New International Version, translates “feeling of our infirmities” is rendered as “empathize with our weaknesses.” That’s the sense of empathy, to “feel” in our heart what someone else is feeling.

In another place the Bible directs us to “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body” (Hebrews 13:3). Here, specifically, it’s talking about those who have been imprisoned on account of their faith. While we, thankfully, don’t see that here in America, think about the oppressed believers in North Korea, China, Saudi Arabia, or Eritrea where people are tortured and imprisoned because of their faith in Christ. We are to empathize with these believers. And this empathy will certainly lead us to pray for them.

Interestingly, the Bible says that Jesus was touched by the feelings of our infirmities because in all points He was tempted (which can also be translated “tested”) just like we are. We know that He knows how we feel, because He’s been there. He’s been abused, rejected, betrayed, etc., etc., just like us. We know He knows how we feel because of this.

So, do you really want to have the empathy of Jesus? Just remember that this is exactly what God may be doing in our lives when we endure trials. He may be preparing us uniquely to empathize with others who may experience the same thing in the future. He may be preparing us to minister to them and encourage them in ways that we otherwise may not have been able to. You know how encouraging it can be when those who come along side us at difficult times have, indeed, walked in our shoes. What a comfort it is to have an empathetic person comfort and encourage us at such times. That’s exactly what the Word is saying when it says “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

May the Lord help us to indeed rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep as we walk through this life together and face the trials that we all, inevitably, may face.

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