Have you noticed the disappearance of sympathy and how it’s been replaced with judgment?
Sympathy has been described as having pity or sorrow over someone else’s loss or misfortune, but sympathy can be encouraging to the one who needs it, giving them the support they need at the time they need it. Not that long ago, a lady was nearly in tears and told our Bible study group that while she was doing dishes, her wedding ring fell down the drain. I thought, “Oh no,” but before I could speak to offer her my sympathy, someone coldly said, “Well, you shouldn’t have put in near the sink! That wasn’t smart.” Another said, “Why’d you take it off in the first place?” Finally, I said what should have been said to begin with: “I am so sorry to hear that. That’s terrible. Were you able to get it out?” By then, the lady was shaken and just shook her head no. Instead of giving this woman a little sympathy when she needed it, they all seemed to blame her. They basically said it was her fault. Whether it was her fault or not is beside the point. No one cared to offer her sympathy. Instead, they criticized her “carelessness.” It’s not surprising that this lady eventually left the church. It wasn’t just that, but you could see that there was just no sympathy for her, but plenty of blame. Why? Maybe it’s just our nature to criticize and to blame people for what happens to them. That’s sad, because someday, we might need a little sympathy from someone, and the last thing we’d need is criticism.
One man who is a pastor of a prison church was troubling a lot of the church members. It was on account of his language. Not only that, even those who were not in the church complained about his foul mouth. I heard one complaint after another, but he always tried to justify his actions to everyone by saying he was raised around it. His father spoke that way all the time. He said that’s the reason he just can’t seem to stop. The problem with that thinking is he was trying to play on the people’s sympathy about the way he was raised to excuse his ongoing language. This is just an excuse they said, and slowly, members of this church are starting to leave. He ignored the fact that believers are new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5:17), with new dispositions, being led by the Spirit (Gal 5:18). All believers are to “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph 4:29). Swear words from a pastor are not befitting to the call, no matter what excuses there are. I heard it all the time when I worked in a machine shop, but I never brought it home. Our words either “give grace to those who hear,” or they see us talking just like the world, being no different from the world. No wonder they don’t want “that.” I cannot give my sympathy to someone who is supposed to be a pastor and tells me and others that “I just can’t stop cursing.” I can understand a slip up once in a while, but this pastor swears every day and all day. Believers ought to guard their mouth from “filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place” (Eph 5:4), and it’s especially true for a pastor or church leader. Really, it should be true of all believers.
Criminals as the Victims
Today it seems that criminals have become the victims, and the victims are sometimes criticized for placing themselves in certain situations. That may be true. Maybe they used bad judgment, but they’re still the victim, but sometimes, instead of the criminal being in the wrong, it’s almost as if the victim was at fault. Why have we suddenly begun to blame the victims at times, and not the criminals themselves? Does it seem that criminals are now playing on our sympathies and that they’re actually the “victim” in all this? Not in all cases. Many admit their guilt and confess their crimes, but it does seem that some criminals try to play on a jury or judge’s sympathies. At least their lawyers do. The criminal did what they did because of their bad childhood or their father hated them or beat them, or whatever they say. It may or may not be true, but as an adult, to try and use their backgrounds to try and justify their “poor choices,” means that they are not accepting responsibility for their actions. From my many years in the prison ministry, I’ve seen the fact that criminals who own their crimes are better off in the long run than those who don’t accept responsibility for their actions. Admission and confession is a giant step to rehabilitation.
For the criminal that blames their past for their present behavior, remember, their father was not there with them when they broke and entered, stole the car, or shot someone, so to try and blame him (or whoever or whatever they blame) for their crime, will not work in a court of law. The judge won’t drag the criminal’s father into court and sentence both. No, it is just as it says in the Bible, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor 5:10). By saying “each one,” Paul means we will all be judged one at a time. We will be judged for what we have done, but also for what we haven’t done (Matt 25:41; 1 John 3:17). Believers won’t be judged as to whether they’ll enter the kingdom or not, but judged for what they did and didn’t do while here on earth (1 Cor 3:15), but in a court of law, the judge convicts the criminal, not those who are supposed to be responsible for the criminal’s actions. Of course, some are accessories to the crime, but that’s a different matter, but to excuse behavior strictly on the basis of a person’s past is to take no responsibility for their actions.
It’s not really hard to do. The next time someone suffers from a loss or some accident or similar event, try to be sympathetic. Even if they made a mistake, who doesn’t!? We all fall short, so if we are to expect sympathy from others, let us show it to others first. Remember our Lord. It is He “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 Cor 1:4). When the Apostle Paul was at a very low point in his ministry, God sent His comfort through the person of Titus, writing that “God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus” (2 Cor 7:6). Finally, the Apostle Peter writes to me and to “all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” (1 Pet 3:8). When someone suffers a loss of some kind, don’t criticize…sympathize, so “if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,” and “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Phil 2:1, 3).
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Christian Crier or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.