The Stunning Empathy of Christ Jesus

The Stunning Empathy of Christ Jesus February 28, 2022

At the risk of sounding braggy, I am pretty good at the whole “empathy” thing.

Good Friday, Easter, Jesus, Christ, Jesus Christ

Image via Pixabay

Not because I’m so great, it’s God-given wiring, but it feels natural for me to put myself in someone else’s shoes, feel their pain, have compassion for their struggle, and seek understanding for what they’re going through, even if I don’t agree with them.

I am far from perfect at it, but it is one of the reasons I am a pastor. I desire to come alongside people in their pain and suffering and help them struggle through it.

But just because empathy is natural for some of us does not mean that it is still not hard work for all of us.

Empathy means we stop talking and do a lot of listening.

It means we actively and intentionally try to imagine life in someone else’s place, seeing another perspective, trying to perceive another worldview, understanding that we cannot possible understand everything in this life on our own, looking at it through our lens alone.

It means doing what we can to even actually “feel the pain” of those who are hurting, to “feel the fear” of those who are fearful, to “feel the shame” of those grappling with shame, etc., not so that we can feel bad for the sake of it, but rather so that we might connect human-to-human with other image-bearers and commune in compassion with what they are going through.

It means we honour those on the other side of arguments, even if we do not agree with them – we honour them simply because they are human beings made in the image of God, and as such are worthy of dignity and respect, even if we feel differently about things. We refuse to demonize them, but love and pray for them instead.

It means temporarily laying aside that oh-so-human drive to “be right” and instead focusing on the thoughts, history, convictions, and feelings of another person, even if we think they are wrong. We don’t need to lay aside our convictions or pursuit of truth, and we shouldn’t avoid tough conversations, but we do seek to legitimately try and hear the heartbeat of the other person.

It means pushing past the surface and seeking the “why” of how a person acts and reacts, not settling just for what they say or do, but digging deeper to find those hidden motives and motivators that make them tick.

All these things cost something. Because of that, it is certainly easier to not pursue them.

Much easier to stop listening, to dismiss those who disagree with us, to marginalize those on the other side, to presume things about them that may or may not be true, to give little thought to their thoughts or feelings or the “why” of how they are acting.

When we are fearful, when we are angry, when we feel under attack, when things are uncertain, empathy is one of the first casualties. Whatever the “other” side is that is firing up our emotions, we quickly lose sight of their humanity and view them as a problem. Sometimes this is encouraged by our own group, or our own politics, or our own media, etc.

Such responses are very typical. But this does not mean that they are good. And is often the case with our flesh, it is opposite of the way of Jesus.

Empathy starts with God. The empathy of Christ is stunning:


You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Rom 5.6-10)


Talk about walking in someone else’s shoes!

Even when we were powerless, even when we were His enemies, Christ came down and literally walked in our shoes. He laid aside the glories of Heaven and took on flesh, living a human life exactly as we do (Phil 2.1-11).

Jesus felt our pain and suffering (Isa 53.4).

Jesus felt the pull of temptation towards sin (although did not give in) (Heb 4.15).

Jesus felt the sting of hunger and poverty (e.g. Mt 8.20; Mt 21.18).

Jesus felt compassion for the crowds who needed saving (Mt 9.36).

Jesus felt grief for those who were far from God (Lk 13.34).

Jesus felt the shattering loss of the death of loved ones (Mt 14.13; Jn 11.35).

Jesus felt the stab of personal betrayal (Lk 22.47-48).

Jesus felt the heartache of abandonment by those who should have loved Him most (Mk 14.27; Mt 26.56).

Jesus felt the impact of lies and slander against Him (Mk 14.55-56).

Jesus felt the sense that God the Father was far away and that He was forgotten (Mt 27.46).

Jesus felt the crushing power of Death itself (Jn 19.30).

This is empathy like we have never seen.

In the Incarnation, Jesus lived the fullness of a human life, experiencing everything we experience, hurting in every way that we hurt, embracing the weakness of our humanity from the strength of His divinity, and sacrificing Himself for our sake (Jn 3.16).

Whatever you are carrying today, Jesus is no stranger to it. He has walked our road, carried our burdens, felt our pain, borne our struggle.

This is empathy like we have never seen, that God would do this for us in Christ.

If we would call ourselves His followers, then we must follow in His example (1Jn 2.6).

To be Christ-like is to be empathetic. If Christ could do it for even His enemies, then we can do it too in our pursuit of Him.

So we seek to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, seeking to carry their burden, because in so doing, we fulfill the law of Christ (Gal 6.2).

When we do need to debate and discuss what is right and wrong, we do so from a place of compassion, seeking to listen more than we speak, and seeking to lay aside anger towards the other as we do so (Jam 1.19).

We seek to “be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble,” (1Pet 3.8).

And we remember: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity,” (Col 3.12-14).

When we do these things, we walk in the footsteps of Jesus, whose empathy crossed time and space and saved the world by His love.


If you’ve enjoyed what you read here, you can follow Third Way Christians on Facebook or Instagram, or sign up here to get new columns emailed directly to you! As well, you can track along with Chris’ Sunday morning teaching at Meadow Brook Church’s YouTube page!


Browse Our Archives

Close Ad