A Time For Empathy
"Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:" - 1 Peter 3:8
British statesman and financier Cecil Rhodes, whose fortune was used to endow the world-famous Rhodes Scholarships, was a stickler for correct dress--but apparently not at the expense of someone else's feelings. A young man invited to dine with Rhodes arrived by train and had to go directly to Rhodes's home in his travel-stained clothes. Once there he was appalled to find the other guests already assembled, wearing full evening dress. After what seemed a long time Rhodes appeared, in a shabby old blue suit. Later the young man learned that his host had been dressed in evening clothes, but put on the old suit when he heard of his young guest's dilemma.
God calls His people to a life of empathy. Literally, it is the idea of considering our actions and word's affect on others before acting or speaking. Empathy should never replace truth, however truth can be given with a spirit of empathy. When Peter tells us to be of one mind, he does not say we are to be of one opinion! We can be of one mind with differing opinions! We should value the relationship we have with God's people more than getting our point across and winning an argument!
The lost world knows nothing of empathy. The world and the selfish person is taught early to only consider self and self-interest before acting and speaking. It is masked with silly phrases like "You do you" or "Be true to yourself." Masked beneath these self-help maxims is the anti-biblical mindset of acting and speaking without any consideration for others; make sure you are happy no matter what.
God's people have been saved from such thinking. We have been lifted from low-living and self-centered thinking and called to live a life of considering others. Right now is the perfect time to apply the principles of God's Word. When people are divided on issues and have differing opinions how are we as God's people to treat them? Do your American rights get in the way of your Christian responsibilities? Sure you have a voice. Sure you have an opinion. Sure you are entitled to even spew it out everywhere like a syndicate on a cable news program. But how does your Christianity fit into all this? Are we just hearers of the word and not doers? Is the Bible just another book that we give a nod when we need to feel better about ourselves or need to appear spiritual when trying to win another selfish argument?
The next three weeks in our nation is going to be an incredibly divided time. As Christians, let none of us forget empathy. If you believe everyone should stay home in order to slow the spread of Covid-19, I ask you to consider those who cannot stay home and need to work in order to provide for their family. Before you judge them, speak harshly about them, post fake articles on Facebook, and rail on them for not thinking the way that you do; why not consider their situation? Why not pray for them? Why not count your blessings first that you may be in a position that you do not have to leave home and can afford to stay home?
If you believe that this is a great time to reopen the nation and have no problem getting out and getting back to normal, don't forget those who are afraid. Don't rub your nose in their decision to sit an activity out. Don't forget that they may have a serious medical condition that precludes them from getting out in public. The person you may be sneering at may have a serious phobia and fear about all they have heard about this virus and want to play it safe. You do not know what is behind their decision so consider them and pray for them.
Empathy does not judge another person's decisions, it considers the person before the decision. We are not talking about right vs wrong. We are not talking about good vs evil. We are not talking about moral vs immoral. We are not even talking about wise vs unwise. We are talking about people over the next three weeks who will have a differing opinion. Cut each other some slack. Let's break the cycle of the cutthroat media and personalities who seem to be the loudest by demonstrating Christian empathy towards one another. I believe this would glorify God and and it would demonstrate Christian maturity to a lost world who desperately need to see Christ in us!