Christian Empathy

Nov 24, 2015 1105

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15).

While Paul’s primary intention in this verse is for Christians to empathise with fellow Christians, Paul, being a missionary at heart, also wants us to build relationships with non-Christians by empathising with them as well. Such a ministry, however, to be effective, has to be timely. There is little point in knocking on your neighbour’s door, to offer your congratulations or condolences two months after the event. We need to be giving them hugs as soon as possible after we receive the news.

Most evenings after work, Reg spent time with his mates at the pub laughing over their beers about funny things that had happened that day. Reg’s brother asked him how deep his relationship was with his work-mates. After giving the question some thought Reg replied that his relationship with them was actually quite shallow. He didn’t know anyone among his workmates who would rejoice over his grandchildren’s success at school or in finding a job. And he didn’t know any of them who would actually shed tears at the unexpected death of any of his family.

If we wish to point our non-Christian ‘friends’ to Christ, we need to be there for them in the high and low points of their lives. Showing them that we care about such things builds relationships as nothing else can do. A lovely flowering plant in a gift-wrapped pot for their new home, or a bunch of gift-wrapped flowers, or a cooked meal when they are morning the loss of a family member are some suggestions.

May I suggest you don’t wait to build relationships with your neighbours until great joy or grief visits their home. Start now, so that when you visit them after their high or low they will be glad to see you.

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