I really love people. Everyone has a unique story, because all of us are unique. I love meeting new people and I really love when people can get together and have fun. I am loving my new job, and I really love every person I’ve had a chance to meet. We are all experiencing a new massive opening, so all of us are having to figure out the details and rely on each other to get it all done. I am loving every second of it, and love being able to encourage the people around me. I’ve been in environments that are completely opposite to what I’m experiencing now. In both work and outside of work, people can quickly become judgmental and start drawing lines in the sand of people they just do not like. We begin having this mindset of making those we don’t always like or get along with, become this idea of the “other.” This is just a concept that occurs when we begin to de-humanize others around us. We take stereotypes and turn them to the extremes. I think as of recent, we have seen the escalation of this idea. By the time of writing this, there was another mass shooting, and the driver behind the murder was hatred of other people. Now, I’m not saying that everyone who has ever acted on or believed a stereotype of someone else will commit a murder of that scale, what I want to talk about is the importance of empathy. There is just a general lack of empathy that I’ve noticed, and I’m sure you have too.
Empathy is simply being able to understand and share the feelings of other people. Much of this post is inspired by the book, Everybody Always by Bob Goff. I love Bob Goff, and I admire his ability and message that we are called to love everybody, always. We are called to love people, and the church, often fails at this. I’ve seen environments where church gets more about how many people we can get inside our walls, and forget the call we have to be like Jesus outside of the walls. Yikes. This lack of empathy is not some new concept, it actually started right at the beginning of the early church. I’ve been reading the book of Acts and there is a moment where Peter is listening to the religious leaders, and they are scoffing at the fact that the church is witnessing to the gentiles. Peter’s response is so simple and should be our response to who we need to show love to. Chapter 15, verse 11 says, “We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are,” and then in verse 19 it says, “We should not make it difficult for the gentiles who are turning to God.” Peter is pretty much calling out the religious people for being classist and racist, they didn’t think those who weren’t like them weren’t worthy of Jesus. Peter states the truth, Jesus came for everyone and commissioned us as believers, not to judge and hate, but to love others and share the gospel. We do that by having empathy for everyone, choosing to love others all the time.
Empathy starts with shifting your perspective.
It’s easy for us to become jaded. People have hurt us in the past or wronged us in some way, so we begin to close ourselves off. We have friends and people we enjoy of course, but we begin to not want to open ourselves to other points of view. As a follower of Christ, this becomes especially problematic because we no longer want to share with others the life change we have found. It’s time to shift your perspective. It takes time, and it starts with how you think. I like having fun, but I struggle with anger. It’s very easy for me to get frustrated quickly or lose my temper, but I really have had to work on what my reaction is when those feelings creep up. Will I let it control me or will I choose to take a second? The same should be true for all of us. Maybe you don’t like certain politicians, events, or people that don’t have the same view as you; will you let your emotions control you? I went to a Christian high school and in several classes, we would talk about the bible and worldviews. There was this common idea, and this idea is something many “Christians” have, was that it was us verses non-believers. We would talk about atheism and those not in church, and see that as a battle that must be fought. This is the complete opposite of what the bible calls us to do. We are called to love, not battle others that don’t have the same idea as us. My heart breaks for those who have been hurt by the church because the church hasn’t acted like Christ. Our battle is not with people. We are called to love others, eat and drink with sinners, and be an encouragement or light to others. In order to have empathy, you must shift your perspective to seeing others as the enemy, and as people to love.
Empathy must become a selfless lifestyle.
I really love the first Captain America movie. There is a moment where Steve Rogers hasn’t yet become the super soldier, he’s an underdog with a big heart. In training, his commander decides to test the soldiers by throwing a grenade (that’s fake) and seeing the reaction. Steve, without any thought, leaps on the grenade in order to protect everyone around him. I love that picture because it is such a strong picture of empathy. It also shows why Cap is the best avenger. What if we started to live with this mindset? That we didn’t have any other thought but to look out for the people around us. Even when we don’t know them and even when others may hate us, Jesus calls us to love with that intensity. We often have this idea that we need to be perfect to have a relationship with Jesus, but I think about when Jesus was on the cross. A criminal who is on the cross next to Jesus, realizes that Jesus is an innocent man, and asks if he could be saved. That criminal didn’t live a perfect life, all we know is that he was being put to death because of his choices, and because he chooses to believe, Jesus saves him. Why are we not living in this way? We are called to be like Christ, to love regardless of what we may or may not gain. It’s time to be like Jesus, to live with empathy and love all people.
This topic has been something heavy on my heart. I have a deep empathy for people, and I know it isn’t a natural trait for people, but it is something that we need to be better at. What if the church became a place where people could feel loved, regardless of what they’ve done? What would happen if we decided to love others, even if they never wanted to come to church? We are called to love others and share the gospel, the good news that Jesus died and rose again to free us from the chains that hold us back. I want to live with empathy. I want others to have the same joy that I have. I refuse to make anyone into a villain, my battle is not with people, my battle is with the enemy trying to steal, kill, and destroy me. The cool part is, because of Christ’s sacrifice, that battle is already won. It’s time to start living with empathy; love everyone, always.
About the Author: Joshua Thomas is a writer by day and superhero by night. When he’s not writing and crimefighting, you can find him reading a good book, sipping warm tea, taking pictures, or dreaming. The young writer doesn’t fully know what he’s doing, but is enjoying the journey of it all. You can tweet memes at him on Twitter @joshua_thomas__ or follow his hipster photos and Jack Kerouac musings on Instagram @joshua_thomas__