BY HUMPHREY MTANDWA
Empathy is the capacity to feel another person’s feelings, thoughts, or attitudes vicariously. Storms of life push people to assume God is not empathetic. But the Bible challenges such thoughts by showing us how Jesus as the high priest is able to sympathise with our weakness because Jesus was tempted in the same way we are tempted and even went through all the emotions man goes through.
The reason why many question God’s ability to be empathetic is because they look at all the pain and suffering in the world and wonder why an all- powerful God would allow the world to be so chaotic. The late John Wesley said that God does not have power over man’s affairs because He delegated the power to man and in the statement he said “it seems God would not do anything on earth unless man prays”. The answer to the chaos in the world is a prayerful church who pray and declare God’s will and desires for man over the earth. Jesus said if earthly fathers are asked for bread they would not give their children a stone and if we as men know how to give good gifts, why do we question God’s ability to give good gifts and to love the world?
The love of God is demonstrated to the world through the church. We as the church are God’s body here on earth and the only way the world or even others can see God’s love is through the church. The reason the world is in chaos at times is because the church is not functioning properly.
The apostle Peter counselled Christians to have “compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tender-hearted, be courteous” (1 Peter 3:8, NKJV). The apostle Paul also encouraged empathy when he exhorted fellow Christians to “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). But yet we as believers do not sympathise with those in trouble which pushes those in the world to assume God is not empathetic.
Empathy is related to sympathy, but is narrower in focus and is generally considered more deeply personal. Compassion, sympathy, and empathy all have to do with having passion (feeling) for another person because of his or her suffering. True empathy is the feeling of actually participating in the suffering of another. God is empathetic because He first loved us and identified with our infirmities through Jesus Christ. Then after Jesus’ ascension he left the church with us as ambassadors. We as the church are God’s arms and feet and our actions should reflect the nature of God which is love.
The Bible says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that who ever will believe him will not perish.” God personally invested Himself in man that man should not die and that Jesus would die in their place. He was judged for us that we would not be judged.
God wants to demonstrate His love towards the world, but the only way God can show His love is through the church. The Bible speaks of how Jesus would have compassion over a person who was sick and through that compassion would pray for their healing. As the church, we should not ignore the needs of the world, but we should let God touch the world through us. Yes God is empathetic, but His empathy can only be seen through His church which is his body.
God bless you.
- Humphrey Mtandwa is an anointed minister of the gospel and teacher of the Word based in South Africa. He has written several books including The Enoch Generation, Truthfulness and Theophany. He blogs at mtandwa.blogspot.com and can be contacted via e-mail or WhatsApp on +27 610286350.