I am what modern psychologists would call an empath. Psychologytoday.com defines empaths as those who feel and absorb other people’s emotions and/or physical symptoms because of their high sensitivities. Intense, right? Until recently, I loathed this part of myself. To feel so deeply, care so much, and bear the burdens of others can prove to be quite difficult in our broken world.
Our society is diverse. That’s no secret. Red, blue, black, white, women, men, millennial, baby boomer. There’s a collection of different personalities, views, backgrounds, and life experiences. The Church is no exception to this diversity. Although we are unified by the redemption of Christ, we worship alongside brothers and sisters that have a testimony, ethnicity, political affiliation – or burden – that differs from ours.
Our Call to Empathy
In a time when society is divided on these lines of diversity, the Church should be an example of unity and compassion. We must show the world what it looks like to love in spite of our differences. We do this through extending empathy – bearing the burdens of one another.
Jesus himself is the perfect example of this. A sovereign, powerful, limitless, eternal God, wrapped Himself in flesh and stepped into time where broken, sinful, humanity resided. He put on our burdens. He felt our pain. He made a bold move of love by stepping into our world. Walking with us. Breaking bread with us.
Romans 12:15 says “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Galatians 6:2 admonishes us to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” We simply can not do this without opening our hearts to care for one another – by empathizing with our brothers and sisters.
How Will You Respond?
Can I be honest? Our most recent, highly contentious presidential election has been cumbersome. Not because of the political sphere of our nation – no, it’s much more than that. I’ve been grieved by the burden of fear some of my friends are carrying. I’ve been grieved by our callous hearts. I’ve been grieved by a lack of empathy. I’ve been grieved by how little we can perceive and bear one another’s burdens.
A Righteous Response of Empathy
I am convinced that a righteous response of empathy will open up the door to a miraculous move of God in our churches, small groups, and communities. When we step into the shoes of our brothers and sisters, our hearts will be enlarged. We will be the example of unity and compassion that Jesus intends for us to be.
How will you respond? Will you take the charge to bear the burdens of your brothers and sisters?
I’ve decided what I will do – dare to feel deeply, care much, and bear the burdens of others – no matter how different they may be from my own. I hope you will do the same.