Empathy is Free, but it Might Cost You Everything

Empathy is Free, but it Might Cost You Everything November 14, 2016


I didn’t want either candidate to win. Logically I understood that one had to, but I couldn’t bring myself to side one way or the other. Some of you may be utterly offended at this, but ultimately we are each responsible and will answer for our choices and I made mine. However, my point is that something happened the day after the election that I wasn’t expecting. I woke up Wednesday morning and I was bothered and not just a normal amount of bothered. I was down-right agitated. My agitation began to snowball into frustration and it didn’t stop there. I couldn’t pinpoint what the cause was. I watched as some friends who were ecstatic at the results and others who were crushed, but nothing was jumping out at me as the source of my agitation. This emotional wave continued to sweep over me throughout the week until it hit a breaking point.

Saturday night I was talking to a friend of mine of the phone and once we hung up, I just could not take it any more. I got totally transparent before God and asked Him to reveal to me, “God please show me why this is so deeply troubling my heart.” The answer didn’t come in a moment, but after much digging, God showed me that my heart wasn’t bothered, it was broken.

To be completely honest with you, my heart is still broken and sadly, I do not think it will change any time soon. As I was getting ready to prepare for my Sunday message this week, I knew that I had a very big message to communicate to my congregation. This group of people who I love, this group of people who I love to pastor, they are an incredible reflection of the kingdom of Heaven right here in our city. They are diverse in every way a group of people can be; different ages, colors, sizes, cultures, preferences, styles, and yes, different political parties. For a brief moment, I wished that God would have just given me a church to pastor of people who all looked like me. Then I could just share one thought and know that everyone would agree and no one would want to walk out after hearing me. Clearly this is not an option for me. My message was simple and straight: there is a lack of empathy in our country and the primary culprit for this are those who follow Jesus.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of someone else. Let me say now, that I am not here to bash the Bride of Christ. While in my flesh I felt anger about the lack of empathy from God’s people, when I come to the end of it, only a desire for change is left. I am not saying this to bring shame to the church, on the contrary I believe the church is the answer. As the people of God, the holy and set apart people of God, we are ambassadors of Heaven and with that should come the fruit of Heaven, chiefly love. Love is simply impossible without empathy for one another.

America can only be great if it is the spring of empathy for those who are hurting. This refreshing, healing water needs to flow out of the doors of the church and into the streets of America. How will a hurting and broken nation, dying for a drink ever be healed if the source itself is dry?

The truth is for some, America has always been great and for others it never ever was. In any circumstance, if America lost her greatness or if she never was great it is not because of financial issues, it is not because of military issues, it is not because of foreign policy or any other policitcal issue. The only way America can ever truly be great is if the church leads the way for others and only if it leads the way in empathy.

While some of you may disagree with what I am about to say, I believe it would not be loving of me if I do not address some key issues circulating today. Donald Trump has said some incredibly racist things towards black and minorities and some horribly degrading things toward women. For his supporters who love Jesus not to show concern for those who feel cast out by their President elect is a lack of empathy and a lack of love towards others. On the flip side of the coin, for those who are in despair because Hillary Clinton did not win, it is a lack of empathy to throw the blanket statement that every Trump supporter is a racist bigot.

Empathy does not mean that we have to agree. Empathy is not tolerance, in fact it is the farthest thing from it. Empathy does not mean that we lose sight of biblical truths. What empathy means is having compassion for one another. Compassion at first glance might seem like an easy thing to offer another, but do not be fooled. Empathy requires emotional work to understand and feel what someone else experiencing. It looks like finding a person in a ditch and rather than shouting directions for them to get out, going down in it and experiencing it together and leading the way out by first understanding the situation. Empathy is the only way we will find common ground from which to build on. It is the only thing that makes room that allows people to agree to disagree. If we all agreed, we would be missing the mark entirely. We are all different and while as the church we should agree on major things, there would be no growth if we did not see things in different lights and from different life experiences. I am not looking for a movement of clones and I do not think this is what God is looking for either.

It blows my mind when I experience flippant disregard for others. Too many of my wealthy and privileged friends talk about the “wussification” of the nation and that people need to take personal responsibility. These are the same parents who have it out with teachers and different forms of authority when their children make mistakes. They protect their children in ways that they probably should not, but still spew that others should be taking responsibility for things that they have yet to take a moment to try to understand.

When Jesus saw a woman in utter sin and caught in adultery, he had compassion on her to the point that he knelt down beside her. How easy it would have been for Jesus to recite the truth of the law to her and cast her away, but instead Jesus set the example for how we should all lead one another. That woman was broken and Jesus DID NOT hide the truth from her, but he did not refrain from covering her in beautiful grace.

Only 5-6% of churches in America are multi-ethnic. The place that should be overflowing with love for people of every kind is often the place of greatest resistance to diversity. This is not because people don’t like the idea of diversity, it is because living in diversity is grueling, painful work. The sad truth is that God’s household is divided and it should be no surprise that country just follows suit. We have made the mistake of chasing the “prize” for being right that we have lost the goal of being loving. So focused on winning, that we let empathy run right out of our doors and now we must work together to bring it back.

I am passionate about racial reconciliation in a culture that is beginning to grow numb to issues of racial inequality. I am not quick to throw racial tension as the only culprit for where we are today, in fact I believe the issues are much deeper. We must begin to dig in our own hearts to uncover what the issues really are, we must put down our grenades and pick up our shovels and dig to see what idols get revealed in each of us.

The best place to start is with ourselves. People of God, I want you to think about this the next time you get ready to post something on social media: will what I am posting bring division? Is my post something that fits my own worldview, out of my desires and flesh and am I stamping Jesus on something that will hurt my brother or sister in Christ? We need to care about those we are called to share in suffering with and bear one another’s burdens with.

I am a man full of faith, but I would be lying if I said at times I feel hopeless in this matter. Truth in the form of explosives has become the idol of the day and the casualty count is rapidly rising. We need to set aside our grenades and begin to search out reconciliation like lost treasure. We must clothe ourselves in empathy and come to the table ready to have the hard conversation.

The amazing thing about empathy is…it doesnt have a price tag; it will not cost you a single penny. However, it will certainly cost you other things. It will cause you to swallow your pride, it will cost you time to sit with someone you disagree with, it will cost you to experience the risk of being hurt in the process and it will cost you the “victory” of always being right. It will force you to test your worldview against the Bible and see what is left standing.

So I will ask you, will you stop and examine where you stand? Will you be willing to lay down any truth-grenades you may be itching to pull the pins from? Will you fight for it? Empathy is free…will you lead with it?

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