• Chris Steele

It’s Time for Compassion and Empathy

Be Strong, Be Well — Monday, April 27

We know from a technical definition standpoint that sympathy, compassion, and empathy are different. However, we can’t hardly talk about one without bringing in the others. This is very evident in the heart of the Christian in our treatment of one another.

During this time of uncertainty, some have been fearful and extremely concerned about their safety. For the rest, this is not a time for our chastisement of these people. It’s a time for compassion and empathy, as well as love.

1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” John says complete and perfect love abolishes fear. But who can say they have perfect and complete love? Oh, we’re working on that. Yes we are. We strive to build up our faith and confidence in the Lord and therefore strive to overcome our fears. But in the absence of “perfect and complete love” there may be occasional apprehension, doubts, and yes, even some fears.

If this constant challenge is true with each one of us, certainly we can learn to treat those who are going through times of fearfulness, with compassion, empathy, and love. The passage quoted from 1 John is not just about me. It’s found in the context of loving my brothers and sisters.

There are people who suffer physical and emotional distress. We would be insensitive if we tried to downplay their situation. Who would say, “It’s no big deal. Remember it’s not this physical life that really matters. You need a stronger faith.” Where’s compassion and empathy? Where’s the love?

Who would be so bold to say they know how they would handle the situation if the shoe was on the other foot? “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

We know there are weaker brethren. Stronger Christians also know the way to accommodate weaker ones is to make sacrifices for their sake (Romans 14; 1 Corinthians 8). These passages apply to matters of opinion rather than doctrine, but they give us some insight on the proper attitude needed in handling the weaknesses of others.

When folks are worried, fearful, or overly concerned about this current virus situation, because they fall into the “at risk” or “compromised” categories, it’s not a time to shame them. It’s an opportunity to teach and reassure them in the spirit of love. It’s a time of compassion and empathy. We need to try to put ourselves in their place and share some kind, sympathetic words of encouragement.

If we are truly the stronger among us, then we need to think beyond ourselves. —Chris

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